I asked Ashlyn, 18, what her plans were after she graduates high school next spring. At first, she looked at me like I had 2 heads, and then responded, “Well, college, of course.” I questioned her why she would do that, and she replied that she wanted to get a degree so that she could obtain a good job and make good money. But she said this with a touch of sadness in her voice, so I pushed her further.
“That sounds a little like your parents talking; if you could put your parents and school’s wishes aside for a moment, what would YOU want to do?”
Ashlyn’s eyes teared up, and she described how what she really wanted to attend a beauty salon school because she loved the creative process of helping her friends do their hair and makeup. When she broached the possibility of this with her parents, they flipped out, lecturing her about how she couldn’t make a living doing hair and she had to get a college degree. Ashlyn also told me there was no way she could walk across the stage at graduation with those plans because her high school wouldn’t recognize that any of their students weren’t attending a university. The previous year the principal had announced that another girl had “been accepted into several good colleges” when in reality she was going to a trade school. Ashlyn was feeling a tremendous amount of pressure to conform.
When teenagers and young adults make decisions in order to please their parents or not disappoint them, they remain dependent and enclosed. The short-term good feeling of pleasing people often evolves into regrets and resentment. Unfortunately, many people never grow beyond this state, and they never pursue their dreams and their heart’s desires. And that is so sad to me.
Letting go is a long-term process that begins as soon as a baby is born. Allowing babies to self-soothe, fuss themselves to sleep, feed themselves, and make simple choices then evolves into letting kids handle their own sibling and friendship conflicts, choose their outfits, and to gradually experience more independence, privileges, and freedoms. By the time kids are seniors in high school, they are then ready to make choices about the next steps in their life that might include college, their major, trade school, or gap years.
We need to allow kids to learn their own lessons and make their own mistakes in their way and in their own time. Every child has their own destiny and path to live out, and must be encouraged to build their own story and future and to make their unique mark on the world.
Instead of being restrained by us, our children need to be unbridled and unleashed!