What is the Secret or Key to Balancing Love (Support) and Emancipation (Letting Go)?
Can you imagine dancing with your young adult son or daughter and you are dancing to the music of Elton John and your son or daughter has earphones on dancing to the music of Prince or Usher. It’s a pretty weird picture that comes to mind with no coordination in moving closer or stepping back. The process of launching a young adult can sometimes feel this way. When you are moving to be closer, your young adult moves back, and when you move back your young adult moves closer. Parents sometimes complain that they are trying to let go, but their adult child keeps moving toward them with explicit dependency needs: “I need money” to implicit dependency needs: “I had a car accident.”
No Formula for Balancing Support and Emancipation
Unfortunately, there is no stable place where there is a right combination because relationships are dynamic and complex. The challenge is understanding when and how to move in with a supportive word or action and when to back off and let the young adult struggle, decide, or take action on their own. Often a parent’s own emotions become a hindrance. Fear and guilt can cause a parent to act in unhelpful ways. A good test is to ask yourself if this is the right time to express love or to support autonomy, regardless of your underlying emotions. In other words, put on your thinking cap and step above your emotions to do what is best for the young adult versus what may make you feel better.
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