Letting Go Of Your Teenager Starts In Infancy

Raising Daughters | Teenager

Letting go of your teenager starts in infancy. In this connect-disconnect pattern, it will persist throughout childhood. But letting go in infancy will develop a reciprocal interaction. Dr. Jordan will provide an insightful discussion on letting go of your kids and providing a safe home base. So, what are you waiting for? Tune in to this episode and make it easier for your teenage kids to launch into the world.


Show Notes:

Letting go in infancy involves developing a reciprocal interaction where you honor their needs and allow the leadership to change. This connect-disconnect pattern will persist throughout childhood.

Kids and teens need a safe home base, like nurturing parents they can come back to for comfort, encouragement, and grounding.

Letting go is a life-long process: Dr. Jordan points out many opportunities we have during childhood to turn things over to our children, such as sleeping thru the night, handling their fears and other emotions, advocating for themselves, solving their problems and conflicts, giving more say-so and decision-making, handling their mistakes and failures, only giving advice if asked or given permission, giving them free will to fail so they can choose to succeed and own the successes, give them the responsibility to know what’s best for them, and getting out of their way so they can forge their path and story.

Dr. Jordan describes the importance of kids finding safe bases, like mentors, to encourage, guide, and inspire them.

Summary: letting go starts in infancy & continues at each stage of development. Seeing letting go as a life-long process makes it easier at age 18 when they launch into the world.

Listen to the podcast here


Letting Go Of Your Teenager Starts In Infancy

As a Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrician, I counsel girls, primarily girls in middle school, high school, and college age. I have been working in schools with classrooms of girls. I’ve been running weekend retreats and summer camps for girls for many years. One of the problems I see with parents and their daughters, and this is true for sons as well, has to do with the whole concept of letting go. That’s what I want to talk about in this episode.

Let me start with a quick story, as I like to do. This story involves the egg of an eagle that somehow found its way into the corner of a barn where a hen was hatching her own little chicken eggs. Soon, the baby eaglet was hatched right along with the other chickens. As time passed, this little eaglet began to experience a longing to fly.

She would ask her mother, the hen, “When can I learn to fly?” “Not yet. I’ll teach you someday when you’re ready.” Months passed and more months passed and the young eagle began to suspect that its mother did not know how to fly, but she could not get herself to break loose and fly on her own because her keen longing to fly had become confused with the gratitude that she felt towards a bird that had hatched her.

It’s not easy to let go. This was brought home to me with my daughter, our oldest child, years ago when she went off to college. I remember going to her orientation. This was a couple of months before school started, in the summer before her first year in college. My wife and I drove down to the university, went there, and there was this program. They were talking to everybody together, parents and the young adults.

At one point, the dean of students told the kids to go ahead and go out. They were going to take them down the hallway and they were going to sign up for their classes for the first semester. The parents all stayed. I’ll never forget this, the dean of students told the parents, “Your kids are eighteen years of age now. Some of them are even older than that. This is the time to let go. This is the time to start letting go. In just a moment, you’re going to go down the hallway and your son or daughter is going to be signing up for their classes for the first semester.”

“They’re in these different rooms, depending upon their major. We don’t want you going in the room. We want them to do this on their own. This is a time to start letting go.” I’ll never forget that we walked down the hallway, and just like he said, there are all these rooms. There was even like an adult standing at the doorway to keep parents out. Parents were arguing and some of them were yelling. They demanded to go into that room.

Some of these young adults came out crying because they didn’t know how to sign up for their classes. It was a mess. I remember thinking to myself, “If this is when you’re going to start letting go, your kids are screwed because you have not prepared them to go off into the world and to launch on their own.” Letting go to me is a process and it starts when your kids are infants.

I’m going to talk to you in this episode about the letting go process. I have some stories for you, too, to bring the point home. It’s important. This is the time of year right now when graduations are coming up, high school graduations are coming up, maybe even college graduations. It is time for our kids or young adults to launch.

When those times come, a lot of parents start to ask themselves questions like, “Have I done enough to prepare my daughter? Have I prepared her well enough to go out into the world and to go to college? What will our relationship look like when they come back on breaks, and when they come back to visit? Are we going to stay close and can I still remain an influence in their life?” It’s hard to let go of control. A lot of parents will ask themselves questions like, “Can I do it? Who am I without my kids? What is my purpose now?” Especially if it’s the last one, the youngest one. Those kinds of questions bring lots of fear with them. Unfortunately, sometimes we transmit that fear to our young adults.


I’ve talked about the concept of touchpoint before. I even did an episode about it a while back. Touchpoint is a concept I learned from my old mentor, Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, a long time ago. This means there are times in our kids’ lives, and this is true for adults too, when we’re about to undergo a big transformation, a big change, or a big leap in development.

Prior to those leaps in development, people tend to fall apart. They get crabby, moody, and out of sorts. It’s like they have 1 foot in the past, and 1 foot in the future. I want to grow up and I don’t. Out of all that ambivalence comes mayhem. Crabby, angry, frustrated, out of sorts, emotional. Think about the terrible twos. Think about all the fears that come out for a lot of kids around the age of 5 or 6. “I want to grow up and I don’t,” is what some kids even would say to their parents.

Think about middle school girls. Bodies are changing and there’s puberty. Friendships are changing. They start to question things. Think about high school seniors ready to go off into the world. By the way, I skipped the one, which is entering high school. That comes before high school seniors. High school seniors, especially, that’s a huge touch point.

Also, college seniors before they go out into the world. The months before people get married is a touch point. A lot of times, you’ll see more fighting and arguing amongst people. Before the first kid comes, the whole nesting stage is a touchpoint. For parents, the empty nest is one. For women, menopause is one. When our parents pass away is a touchpoint for us. Midlife crisis is another example.

All along the way, there are points in our lives when we were in transition and there’s going to be a switch and a change. Those are the toughest times for parents to let go because their kids look out of sorts. They may look unhappy. They may look like they’re struggling because they are. They’re struggling because they need to struggle to gain the confidence and the energy to push forward and make that leap in development. It’s our job to support that process and not to get too plugged in.

Kids need to struggle to gain the confidence and the energy to push forward and make that leap in development. The parent's job is to support that process and not get too plugged in. Click To Tweet

I saw a mom that not too long ago whose daughter was in college. It was the first semester and she was struggling a little bit because most people in the first semester have some challenges. They had to make new friends and create their own new support system. The classes are different than high school. All that whole process, being away from home, living in a dorm, etc.

This girl called home frustrated one time because her roommate wasn’t being nice to her and struggling with the classes. Every time her daughter would say stuff like that, her mom would say, “You can come home if you want. Do you think you need to come home?” This girl would get frustrated with that because she’s like, “That’s not what I want to hear from you because that makes it too easy for me to give up and come home. What I need from you at that point is to say, ‘You got this. I believe in you.’”

Part of the letting go process, by the way, is to be aware that all the way through our kids’ lives, they’re learning through this connect-disconnect process. It starts when they’re infants. When my grandson was five months old, I was holding him, and he was looking in my face. He’ll look into my eyes for a little short time and he looks away. I have learned from experience to look away at the same time. He comes back to me and I come back to him. We have to develop, like he has to do this with his mom and his dad, this beautiful reciprocal interaction where we connect and then we have to disconnect because he needs a little bit of a break.

Raising Daughters | Teenager
Teenager: Part of the letting go process is to be aware that through our kids’ lives, they learn through this connect-disconnect process. It starts when they’re infants.


Oftentimes, it’s the baby as much as the parent who initiates that connection, and that initial reciprocal interaction, that back and forth, give and take, with an infant is going to set the tone and be the template for our relationship with them for the rest of their lives. It’s about honoring their need. They’re ready to look and then they get overwhelmed, so we pull back.

We alternate who’s leading. Sometimes they lead and sometimes, we do. That’s going to be a process that’s going to continue for the rest of your parenting life. Sometimes you’ll lead and sometimes your kid needs to lead. Back and forth. It’s like that whole concept of having a home base. Think about your toddler when your daughter was younger and you go to a family party. They get anxious and so they grab onto your leg.

It’s a separation anxiety. If you’re calm and cool, after a little bit, most kids warm up a little bit enough to go off away from you and explore. They’ll come back looking a little anxious. If you’re nice and calm and say, “It’s okay,” then they calm down and they go back out into the world. They come back to their parents for comfort and grounding.

If we are calm and our body language, our tone of voice, and our words convey to them, “You’re okay. You can do this. I believe in you,” it gives them comfort, safety, encouragement, and courage to then go back out in the world. You’re teaching them that the world is a safe place to explore. If you need me, I’m here. I’m this constant, always there home base for you. That also persists all the way through childhood.

If you want to remain an influence in your daughter’s life when they’re 14, 16, 18, 22, 28, or whatever, it’s important that you have a solid, strong, trusting, safe relationship. Your goodwill account, if you will, needs to be full. I talked to you previously in another episode about how to make deposits into the goodwill account by being respectful, listening, giving them power, etc.

If you have a full goodwill account, then you’ve become a safe, warm, nurturing, trustworthy home base. They will come back even when they’re 18, 20, 26, or whatever, but the goodwill account needs to be full for them to see you as that safe home base. Think about that connect-disconnect thing. Think about when your kids, at some point, maybe when they were 5 or 7 or 8 or 10, didn’t want you to walk them down to the bus stop anymore. They didn’t want you to walk them into class. They want to do it on their own.

Think about when they started to spend a little bit more time down the street with their friends, maybe having sleepovers, and then they get to be 16, they can drive, and then they go further from home. Think about when they go into 7th, 8th, 9th grade, and beyond, where you start to know less and less about their friends because their worlds open up. We’re not privy to every little moment of their lives like we did when they were in first grade.

In 1st or 2nd grade, we go to their soccer games and we sit with the other parents. We know the other parents, we know the kids, and they come to our house for a barbecue afterward. You know their world. When they get to be 14, 16, 18, you start losing that. That’s normal. That’s part of the letting go process. You know less and less about their friends. They spend more time alone in their bedrooms, talking on their phones, and going through social media apps and things.

They have a much greater need for some private life, especially when it comes to dating relationships for many kids. That doesn’t mean they don’t need you. They need you. They need your influence. It looks different. It’s a back-and-forth, a connect-disconnect. As long as you’re aware of that and you trust it and you’re the home base, it’s safe. They will come to you when they need something. Not just things but when they need some emotional support.

Kids have a much greater need for some private life, especially when dating relationships for many kids. That doesn't mean they don't need you. They need you. They need your influence. Click To Tweet

I also want you to think about that lifelong process as looking back through their lives and all the places where you have let go already. For instance, one of the first times in their lives when they become more independent is sleeping through the night. In order for a baby to sleep through the night, they have to go to sleep. When they go down into that deepest sleep stage of the night, after 3 or 4 hours, they cycle up into a light sleep.

Their job is to put themselves back down into a deeper sleep by fussing, sucking in their thumb, or chewing on their hand. They have to find their way to calm themselves down. That does not involve you picking them up and rocking them, etc. That’s letting go. That’s part of the process of letting them learn how to self-soothe and self-quiet.

At some point when they’re toddlers, you teach them how to feed themselves, dress themselves, and pick out their clothes. You start letting go of an overpowering model. I remember when our youngest son, John, was probably fifteen months old. He was a very early talker. He talked full sentences when he was fifteen months old.

I remember when he was around that age, 15 months or 18 months, he started fighting us with his diaper in the morning. He’d wake up. His diaper would be soaked from the night. We said, “We need to change your diaper, then we’ll go on for breakfast,” he would throw a fit and stomp around, “I don’t want you to change my diaper.”

Instead of overpowering him and having one of us hold him down, the other one try and change the diaper, what we would say to him is, “We’re not willing to fight you. As soon as you’re ready to get your diaper changed, then we’ll go down for breakfast.” We would zip our lips and walk out. I’ll never forget there were several times when we did that where he would flip out. He would stomp around. He would throw himself into the wall almost. Amazingly, after a few minutes, when he didn’t get an audience, he would walk into our bedroom with a diaper in his hand. I swear to God this is true. I remember one time he said, “I’m ready now.”

Letting go of that, having to overpower kids to get them to do what you want, that’s a process that you start letting go of over time. You learn when your kids have those fears that are normal around 5, 6 or so, to teach them how to handle their own fears because they need that to become independent and to know how to start taking care of themselves. You let go while letting them speak for themselves, asking for what they want.

We used to run those weekly family meetings, which I’ve talked about probably ad nauseam. In those meetings once a week, our kids could ask for things and advocate for themselves. We would listen. We would negotiate. We would create win-win solutions. That’s a very important process for them to start learning how to speak up and tell people how they feel and what they want.

Going out to restaurants, letting your kids order for themselves to talk to other adults and say, “I want this or that.” Slowly but surely, you start letting go and letting them speak up. It might be they’re having a problem with the teacher or a problem with the coach. You allow them to confront that teacher or coach and to work things out on their own.

Maybe you’re there if they’re in grade school and you sit in the back of the classroom, but you let them have those chances to advocate. They start gaining the confidence that says, “I can make things happen. I can take care of myself,” so that it doesn’t start when they’re eighteen and walking onto campus. It started when they were a little kid, solving their problems with their siblings. You start turning that over. You teach them how to resolve conflicts peacefully. You work yourself out of the job of being the judge, the juror, the executioner, the police officer who has to stop your kids. They have to learn how to do that themselves.

Same thing with their friends. I was talking to a mom and her daughter who was in about 7th or 8th grade. This girl had been good friends with this other girl and the parents were also friends. The other girl got a “boyfriend” in seventh grade. She started to ignore this girl and she was also saying things about her to other girls, talking about her behind her back. This girl finally got tired of it. She started to not talk to her, not invite her to do things.

She tried to talk to her parents about that. Her parents immediately, especially her mom, jumped in and said, “She’s been your friend since you guys were three. I think you should call her. You should work it out.” What she did know was this girl had tried to do that. The mom didn’t have an idea about the whole context of everything. Sometimes, you look at one text or Instagram post, and then you think you know everything about what’s happening and we don’t.

Let Them Solve Their Own Problem

That’s another way to let go, which is to let them solve their own problems with people like coaches, teachers, and/or friends. Hopefully, you’ve been letting go all on the way and giving your kids more choices, more say-so, and more control. You don’t give them choices when they’re five that are adult level. You give them choices that are age-appropriate and that they can handle, but give them those say-so choice leadership opportunities to be in more control of their lives.

Raising Daughters | Teenager
Teenager: You give your kids age-appropriate choices that they can handle but give them those say-so choice leadership opportunities to be in more control of their lives.


If you’ve been doing that, starting when they were infants and toddlers and you’ve been doing it all along the way for eighteen years, when they go off into the world, however they go off into the world when they’re eighteen, they’re ready. You start shifting out of this rules and punishment model into more of a, “Let’s make agreements together and I’ll hold you accountable to whatever we decide together.” It’s less top-down, more treating them more like an “equal.”

Of course, when they’re 6, 8, 10, and 12, they’re not equal in the sense that you have the final say. Within that circle of, “I have the final say,” there are a lot of places where they can ask for things and negotiate and there can be some back-and-forth give and take. Start that when they’re young and then they’re ready to make up their own choices and take care of themselves when they become older.

Early on in grade school when they first start, it’s important to let go of who’s responsible for their homework, their schoolwork, and their school life. It’s them, not you. You don’t get over-involved, and you don’t micromanage because if you do, they keep looking to you to solve problems to push them and to motivate them. It’s not your job. It’s their responsibility. That’s the place where you’ve been letting go, I hope. If not, start now.

You don't get over-involved and don't micromanage because if you do, they keep looking to you to solve problems to push and motivate them. It's not your job. It's their responsibility. Click To Tweet

Other places, things like their hygiene, their grooming, taking care of their bedroom, letting them, in a sense, other than extremes, create their own bedroom space. It may not be quite as clean and orderly as you would have it, but when they’re 12, 14, 16, 18, that’s another place we can let go. I remember when our kids turned about 10 or 11, we stopped doing their laundry because we thought, “Why are we doing this laundry? A monkey could learn how to do it. You put it in, you put the soap in and click some buttons and then 45 minutes later, it’s done.” That was where we could let go so that if they came to us and said, “I can’t find my shirt,” we would say, “I don’t know. What will you do?” As opposed to doing it for them.

A lot of eighteen-year-olds go off to college who have never done their laundry and never had a checking account, never had a savings account, and never taken care of their own money. We haven’t prepared them through having things like allowance and teaching them about what they’re going to be responsible for paying for all along the way. Hopefully, you’ve been letting them go along the way by letting them handle their own frustrations.

If they make a mistake, let them make the mistake. Let them fail sometimes and let them recover. Figure it out and learn from their mistake. If they do that, they will enter college and adulthood with a lot more hope, confidence, and optimism because they know that if challenges and obstacles come their way, they know that they can overcome them because they have. You’ve allowed them to all along the way.

You allow them. You encourage them to take risks and to challenge themselves. You start letting go of freedom all along the way. You don’t give them the whole basket one day. Slowly but surely, their behavior will teach you that they’re ready to try the next step. If they handle that next step, then they’ve taught you they’re ready for the next step.

Let Go Of Your Teacher Role

Another place to let go is letting go of our teacher role. I remember this came home to me years ago. I remember we were having a staff meeting with all of our camp staff before one of the camp weeks. I don’t know what we were talking about. We were having some brainstorming process, but I remember we asked the group, “Is there anything everybody needs to clean up or clear up before the camp week starts?”

When the kids come, we want to be a team and work together with no drama, and no smoldering things. A couple of the young staff who were like 18, 19, or 20 asked me to handle something. Four of us got into the middle of our staff circle. What they said to me was, “We feel like you give us a lot of responsibility. You give us lots of places to be a leader. Sometimes it feels like you still see us as an eight-year-old camper. It’s both things. We feel very empowered. On the other hand, sometimes we still have that sense.”

I know they were right. It was hard for me sometimes not to see them as that little kid because some of these counselors have been with us for 8 or 10 years or so. I own that and I let them know I would work hard at not doing that. If they saw me or felt like I was doing that to bring it to my attention, to bring it to my awareness, and I would switch it. My guess is that happens to you sometimes as well. You may have a daughter who’s 15, 17, or 20 who’s very confident, but sometimes you still see them as a kid and you still treat them as a kid instead of seeing them in a higher light.

I teach girls that all along the way, they’re responsible for teaching their parents how to support them at each stage because it changes. How you want your parents to support you when you’re 10 is different than when you’re 16 or 18 and going off to college. Their job and their responsibility is to teach you how to support them. Your job is to listen and to let go in places where it’s not being supportive anymore.

Sometimes what felt supportive when they’re 10 feels annoying and intrusive when they’re 16. I also have learned from working with teenagers for a long time that before I give any feedback or advice, I ask their permission. I’ll say, “Can I give you some feedback about that?” They give me a, “Yeah, fine.” I say, “I don’t have to. Do you want me to give you some thoughts? I have an idea, a suggestion for you.” They say, “Okay.” I’ll say, “Are you sure?” If they say yes, then I give it.

That may sound anal to you or something like that. I’m telling you, it shows respect. They appreciate that because if they’re not open to or interested in that moment in my suggestion or feedback, then it’s going to fall on deaf ears. It’s going to be frustrating for both of us. You can start doing that with your kids, only giving advice when asked. That means you have to let go if they say, “I’m not open right now.” You have to let go of trying to force the issue and let them come to you in their way, in their time.

I heard a story a long time ago about the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. He remembered a valuable lesson that he learned when he was about nine years of age when he took a walk with his uncle on a snowy day. His uncle was a very successful man, a no-nonsense, serious guy. They had walked through this snow-covered field. When they got to the end of it, his uncle stopped them.

He said, “Turn around and look back at our two sets of tracks in the snow. Notice how your footprints go aimlessly back and forth from the trees over to the right, where you look at the cattle on the left, and then over there, you’re throwing sticks. Notice how my path comes straight across right to my goal.” Frank never forgets this lesson. Frank Lloyd Wright, to his credit, said he never did. He was determined right then and there to never miss out on most things in his life as his uncle had. He wanted to do it his way.

That means you have to let them do it their way. You have to let them have free will to fail so they can then choose to succeed. You let go because they need to learn their own lessons in their own way, in their own time. If you allow that, then whatever successes they have become their victories. It’s their touchdown dance. That means you also need to let go of that.

Raising Daughters | Teenager
Teenager: You have to let them have free will to fail so they can choose to succeed.


Their successes and failures are not a reflection of you. If they’re struggling, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. If they’re struggling, it’s because they’re struggling because sometimes you struggle in life. If you feel like it’s all about you, then it’s going to be hard not to jump in, fix, rescue, and micromanage. That’s not what they need. We need to slowly but surely turn their life over to them so they become self-motivated and self-reliant and develop self-efficacy.

Let me give you an example. When our son, TJ, was young, maybe 9 or 10, he wanted a Nintendo back in that day. My wife and I didn’t like those things. We thought they were addicting and it was a waste of time. We held off and finally, he sat us down and he said, “I want one. I feel like I’m ready to have one and I feel like I’ve earned the right.” My wife and I said, “We’re willing to try but with a couple of stipulations. First, you have to pay for it yourself. We’re not willing to pay for it.” At the time, those sets were about $150, which was a lot of money for him at that age.

We said, “The second thing is, if you get it, then we’re going to need to have a sit-down and we’re going to talk about agreements and boundaries, about how much time, what kind of things, what kind of games, etc.” He agreed with that. It took him 4, 5, or 6 months to earn that money. He went to the video store counting out his little piggy bank money. He paid for it all by himself. He was so proud of himself. That was a good lesson for him that he could create things that he wanted.

Fast forward several years, we started telling our kids when they were in middle school that we were saving money for them for college and that we would have enough money by the time they graduated from high school to pay for a state school, room, board, and tuition. We said, “We don’t want you to go to a state school. We want you to go wherever you want, but this is how much we’re willing to gift you. You need to make decisions based upon that.”

My daughter, who was our oldest child, decided she was going to be a teacher. There was a good state school in Missouri for teachers. She thought, “I’ll have it all paid for and I want to hang out in St. Louis when I graduate.” She paid for her college, room, board, tuition, and all the fun stuff. Everything else was on her.

Our first son, TJ, decided, “I don’t want to be going to college in Missouri.” He made a circle on the map around the Midwest, and he wanted to go to school outside of that circle. He ended up going to TCU in Fort Worth, Texas. Our state tuition room board, etc., was enough to pay for maybe half of it because it was a private school. He got a decent scholarship, which paid for another part of it. He was short so he ended up having to work. He worked at the rec center for all four years, and he paid for it himself.

I remember maybe after the first year or two of college, they bumped up the tuition by $1,000 or $2,000. That was on him, right? He walked into the financial aid office on his own, sat down, and said, “I love this school. I want to keep coming here. I’m paying for a lot of my college and I have up until now, but you raised the price. I can’t afford that. I would like to get more scholarship money.” He got it. Amazing.

I don’t think he would’ve advocated for himself if we hadn’t given him chances to buy his own Nintendo and he went back and used high school to talk to his hockey coach about getting more playing time. There were lots of little steps along the way where we let go, and let him take care of himself. At twenty years of age, he’s doing what he did in college.

I want you to start allowing your kids to have those opportunities. One of our greatest responsibilities as parents is to get out of their way. This means that each of our kids has their own path and destiny. They have to build their own story and their own future. Part of that process is letting go of knowing what we think is best for them.

One of our greatest responsibilities as parents is to get out of their way. Click To Tweet

I read a great story years ago from one of my Anthony De Mello books and it concerned the Sufi saint, Shams of Tabriz. He said he was always considered a misfit as a kid. His dad told him he wasn’t crazy enough to be put into a madhouse, but he didn’t know what else to do with him. This young man told his father this story. A duck’s egg somehow found its way under a hen. When the egg hatched, the duckling walked around with the mother hen and all the other chicks.

One day, they walked by a pond and the duckling went straight into the water while the mother hen stayed clucking anxiously on the shore. Sham said to his father, “I have walked into the ocean and I find it my home. You can hardly blame me if you choose to stay on the shore.” He had a different path. He had a different outlook, and some of your kids are as well. Part of our job as parents, part of our letting go process is letting go of what we think is best for them and turning over so that they start to know what’s best for them.

That, to me, should start in middle school and high school, allowing them to have that switch. It’s so important, in my experience, for them to be self-motivated to do things for their reasons, to have the autonomy to do that. Part of that is knowing what’s best for them, knowing how to get quiet, go inward, check in with themselves, and check in with their gut, their intuition, their heart, and their urges.

Along with that, it’s important for us in this process to hold the highest vision for them. When they’re young kids, they’re like a little acorn. We’re the ones who have to see the oak tree in them because sometimes they don’t see it in themselves. If we see who they are, if we hold a high vision for them, that’s important. Sometimes, that gets them through the tough times.

Part of that process is also, if you can, helping them find mentors. A lot of us along the way had good mentors. A lot of times we found them on our own. Sometimes, they came from a family friend, or in some way, we can maybe guide them to talk to somebody. They need mentors. They need safe bases, if you will, who will be there for them, who can see more in them than they can see in themselves, to give them feedback, to model for them.

Especially if your kids go off in directions, in careers where we don’t know much about them. They need other people besides us to guide and inspire them. That means we have to let go of that part and allow them to find other people who can nurture them along the way. Letting go doesn’t start when they’re eighteen, walking on campus to college, going into the Army, or getting out of high school. Letting go starts in infancy and it continues at every stage of their development.

Raising Daughters | Teenager
Teenager: Find other people who can nurture them along the way.


If you start to allow those letting go things become aware of and start giving more letting go, things like we’ve talked about in this episode, all along the way, it makes it much easier for you to let go when they’re eighteen and going off in the world when they’re ready to launch. It also has allowed them to build the confidence within themselves to take care of themselves, to advocate for themselves, and to know what’s best for them. It’s so important.

Remember, too, parents that those touchpoint feelings I mentioned earlier are normal. When young people go through developmental spurts, it’s not them who have touchpoint emotions. It’s also us. When our kids start to pull away a little bit because they’re supposed to, when they start to have more privacy, when they start to spend more time with their friends, when they’re going off to school, going off to college, those are also touch points for us. We also have emotions that come up for us. It’s a grieving process in a sense because we’re “losing” our kids. We’re not, but it’ll never be the same. When they come back home from college, it won’t be the same.

It can be lots better, but it’s going to be a change. It’s a transition. It’s important that all of us also allow ourselves to feel the feelings that come up for us around those times. Some parents feel less valuable. They feel sad. They feel disconnected. They don’t feel very important anymore. It’s like they lost themselves, in a sense. That’s especially true for parents whose whole lives have been around the kids and they didn’t nurture their marriage.

When that youngest kid goes off and you have an empty nest, parents who haven’t been taking care of their marriage will look at each other like, “Who are you?” It’s because they haven’t taken care of themselves and their marriage along the way. It’s part of the process. It’s for all of us in that transition. There’s a lot of uncertainty when our kids go off into the world and we have to learn to deal with that. We have to learn to trust that our kids are going to find their way, their mentors, and what they need along the way.

Let me finish this episode with a great metaphor and then some advice from eighteen-year-olds. The metaphor is about holding sand in your hand. Relationships of all kinds are like sand held in your hand. Held loosely with an open hand, the sand remains where it is. The minute you close your hand and squeeze tightly to hold on, a lot of the sand starts trickling through your fingers. You may hold onto some of it, but most of it will be spilled.

Relationships are like that, including relationships with our children or adult children. Held loosely with respect and freedom for that child, the relationship is likely to remain intact. Hold too tight or too passively, and the relationship slips away and it’s lost. Great metaphor. It’s that back-and-forth, give and take, connect-disconnect that hopefully you have been experiencing all along the way. If you haven’t, then the time is never too late. It’s also never too late to listen to our kids and what they want.

I’m going to close here with some sage advice that I’ve heard from lots of eighteen-year-olds. It goes like this. When they’re going off to college, they often will say to their parents, “I want you, Mom and Dad, to stay in the same house in the same marriage and have the same career. I want you to stay sitting by the phone for my phone calls, but don’t be upset when I don’t call and don’t touch my bedroom.” Letting go is a process. Be aware and start now. It’s never too early and never too late.

I will be back here with another episode. I appreciate you reading these. I appreciate it when you send feedback. I appreciate when you pass them on and I appreciate also that you’re allowing me to be an influence. I want you all to remain an influence in your daughters’ lives. I’m glad that you’re open to some ideas that may be helpful. Check out all the things I do on my website at www.DrTimJordan.com. I’ll see you next time. Thanks so much for stopping by.


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