Fragile. Eggs. Pushed out of the feathered nest.
As a child, I was expected to work hard with an end goal of self-sufficiency. Independent.
I have the same expectation for my teen-aged children.
As a mom, I am amazed at how adeptly my
now 13- and 17-year old boys have embraced any speck of freedom and independence. Oh, I started them out young, for sure!
Unaccompanied minor flights to visit grandparents in Florida, France, and Fiji. Ok, not Fiji…From the time my older son turned 12, my boys have flown solo.
When my boys were 14 and 11, they flew to Bordeaux, France alone. Extended layover in Paris due to flight delays–no problem. Nintendo type games in the Air France lounge make great chaperones!
Kicking the independence gig up a notch, last weekend my older son flew to Japan on a school trip with no international cell phone plan.
The only communication I have received from the older son in Japan was a brief text message.
Cleared Japanese immigration. Do not let anyone text me. See you next week!
Five days later, still had no word! If I hadn’t raised my son to be independent, I would be in a panic. But, I subscribe to the philosophy, ‘No news is good news.’
My son must have been busy enjoying Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka.
The same weekend my older son left for Japan, my younger son sweated through overnight Civil Air Patrol basic cadet training.
So, both boys flew from the nest. No one else from my son’s Civil Air Patrol squadron attended basic training, so new faces from across central Pennsylvania.
Queued up to sign in, boot camp started. Senior cadets shouted orders at young cadets to address them respectfully by their titles EVERY time they passed them.
Happy to report, my son wasn’t phased by being barked at for 48 hours. If only that were true at home when asked to clean his room, ha!
In the era of tiger mamas and helicopter parenting, you might wonder if I’m at the extreme end of the spectrum. But consider the alternative.
It kills you to see them grow up. But I guess it would kill you quicker if they didn’t. ~Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams
If you don’t give your children space (and your blessing) to grow, you do them a disservice. Children need to learn how to fend for themselves (phased-in at age-appropriate intervals, of course!) and equip themselves with coping mechanisms. to become independent.
The sooner the better.
5 Tips for Raising Independent Children
- Lay the foundation for confidence by assigning chores. Delegate tasks such as folding laundry, raking leaves, cleaning the litter box.
- Send your child on a short unaccompanied minor flight and build up to longer flights. For example, my sons flew 2-hour direct flights to Florida to visit their grandma before making the leap to a cross-Atlantic 8-hour trip to France (with a transfer in Paris).
- Allow your children to work outside of your home. Babysitting is a great start if your child is good with other children. Have them get certified as a SafeSitter.
- Seek input on certain family matters. For example, children can plan and cook family meals.
- Encourage your children discover their interests. My younger son took the initiative to research Civil Air Patrol after he learned about it at a local Labor Day parade. When kids take the initiative and provide input on their extra-curricular activities, they will be genuinely interested and engaged in the activities.
When you give your children some leeway and let them prove themselves, you build up their confidence. This self-esteem boost goes a long way in developing independent children.
So, after over a week in Japan, with no communication from my son, guess what he texted me today when he arrived on U.S. soil?
Do I have to come back to PA? Can’t I just go back to Japan?
Well, it looks like I have succeeded in raising an adventurous and independent child!
In the blink of an eye, the nest will be empty!
What are some of the obstacles you have faced as a parent with raising independent children? What advice do you have for other parents for coaxing children out of the nest? Please share in the comments below!
Update: My son returned home safe and sound on Easter Sunday with tons of photos and omiyage (Japanese for souvenirs) to share.