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Let Go of Your 20-Something Kid

By Dwight Bain
Guest Writer

CBN.comParents are told to give their children "roots and wings" from the time they are born until it is time to leave the nest, some twenty years later. The first part comes easier than the second, which may not come at all for some older adolescents these days. Let me explain a few factors to help you understand why some kids never seem to launch into early success as young adults.

Giving a child 'roots' is about shared traditions, Judeo-Christian values, and personal accountability to a moral standard of behavior, such as the 10 commandments or the golden rule, as well as providing a safe and loving home environment. Most parents do their best to care and provide for their kids. Most parents also try to build these core values into the heart of their kids, which will always show in their behavior and choices later in life. If a child knows what they believe, they are stronger and more focused to go through the teen years without getting hung up on the distractions and temptations that cause so many to stumble and fall.

Right from Wrong is Usually Easy to Spot

Frankly, I don't think most parents really struggle with knowing what they should be doing. They know what they want their children to learn and if you ask them, they usually have a pretty clear vision of how they want their children to behave. It's been my experience that most parents do their best to give their kids the strength of being deeply rooted into a personal belief system of some kind, especially in understanding right from wrong, and how to respond to the world around them in a reasonable and responsible way.

If they aren't directly building these values into the lives of their kids, they are likely supplementing those values through Sunday school at church, some form of Christian values education (i.e., programs available through faith based groups, such as the YMCA), or exposure to positive messages through the entertainment they let their kids experience. Giving kids traditional family values will root them in knowing what they believe, but it won't always protect them when they are challenged by their peers as to why they believe it.

Most Common Fights are about the ‘Flight Plan’

How do you take a child that you have loved, cared for, taken care of and protected for their entire lifetime the right amount of space to 'fly' forward on their own wings? Let me warn you ahead of time, it's often hard to find the right level of balance on this subject. Kids and parents often experience their greatest conflict during the teen years trying to figure out just the right level of responsibility and independence for each stage of life. Yet as hard as it may be for parents to even consider letting go of their kids, it is essential for the child's healthy development and inner strength. One day they will have to move out and move on as a young adult to tackle issues on their own, without the security of knowing that mom and dad's watchful care is always going to be near. The goal is for them to know what they believe, and when tested, to pass the test and live out those beliefs despite of the pressures around them.

Dangerous Truth: Over-Protective Parents Create Weaker Kids

Here's why this is such a problem for some loving parents. If you never let a child test their wings by moving a little further away from mom or dad's care, then sometimes they end up developing the symptoms of fear, extreme shyness or a social phobia and end up being afraid of moving forward in life. Not all kids will develop psychological or emotional fears because of overprotective parents, but it can be one of several factors that slow down their personal development and inner strength to move forward toward the next stage of life. Yes, we love our kids, but remember, part of that love is to equip them and prepare them to one day leave the nest to literally launch forward, just like a space shuttle launch sequence at Kennedy Space Center.

Think about all of the years of planning and thousands of challenges that have to be overcome to create a successful launch into space. Literally everything that takes place for the years leading up to a rocket or orbiter launch date is done to safely and strategically accomplish the goal of getting that rocket into space and to another place. That's the driving force of those NASA engineers - to get that bird off the ground at Cape Canaveral and into orbit toward the stars.

I love the line from the movie, Astronaut Farmer (starring Billy Bob Thornton), when the father-in-law tells his wanna-be astronaut son-in-law: "I really respect you son. Most dad's cannot get their families to share a meal at the table together and you- you’ve got your whole family dreaming together!"

The film shows the power of never giving up on a life-long dream of orbiting the earth, and more importantly the courage, patience and teamwork of a whole family coming together to make that dream a reality.

Space flight can be a lot like parenting, we spend years getting them ready to have a successful launch because one day we know that we will have to do a launch sequence to countdown the days as they head out to another stage of life. This is the way that God designed it- kids are supposed to move out and move on to build lives of their own. If overprotective parents stall that process, it scrubs the launch and leaves the child stranded on the launch pad, while their peers are blasting off toward early success in life. No one wins and it often sets the child up for tremendous problems that could have been solved if the parents had taken a different and more directive approach.

*Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2009), To receive this valuable weekly resource, subscribe at

Laura Petherbridge

Dwight Bain is dedicated to helping people achieve greater results. He is a Nationally Certified Counselor, Certified Life Coach and Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984, with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change.

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