There are a lot of parents experiencing varying degrees of anxiety and/or heartache this time of year. Some are sending a child off to school for the first time. Others are helping a young adult leave home for college. It’s bittersweet at best—exciting to see our kids grow yet tough to let them go.
Gail and I watched our oldest son, Josh, his wife, Becka, and their four kids (four of our five grandkids!) roll out of town this week for California. At 5:00am their van headed out of the driveway without much fanfare. Just teary-eyed parents. We are emotionally raw yet we’ve never been prouder.
They are leaving family and the life they’ve known for twelve years to help start a church in Los Angeles, CA. Twenty-five years ago, I did the same thing—moved our young family of seven out of state to pastor a small church. I think letting my son and family go was tougher.
As you’ve come to know, we Andersens are very close so this is a big deal for our family. That’s why I empathize with you if you’re in a season of letting go.
Letting go happens many times in a child’s life. First day of school. Summer camp. Driving a car by themselves. College. Marriage. Moving away.
Some transitions are bigger deals than others. Gail and I have learned a few things over the years through many transitions with our five kids that make these times easier.
- It’s worse before the actual transition. I remember how emotionally distraught I was the whole year before my oldest left for college. I was focusing on how our family would change, how things will never be the same again, etc. By the time we dropped him off at college, I was all cried out and the transition was nowhere near as big of a deal as it had been in my mind for a year.
Focus on the exciting potential of the new. These mile-marking transitions are filled with opportunity and adventure. Rather than wallow in “how things will be different”, better to focus on the good that lies ahead. Celebrate and build on the past. As good as the past may have been, you can’t live there. But you can—and should—celebrate it and use it as a launch pad for new and better that lies ahead. Even though we couldn’t imagine it beforehand, every phase of our family has been better. Treasure the photo albums and family videos, yet expect even better days ahead.
Stay in touch as always have—just differently. Communication has never been as good as it is today. Unlimited cell phone minutes, texting, video chats, Periscope, etc. make staying in touch and sharing our lives so easy. When children leave home, you can still stay in touch and encourage them as you always have. Weekly special time with your child been an important part of your past? Keep it going—just do a video chat. Used to talking at the end of the day? You still can by phone. Regularly text goofy messages throughout the day? Texting knows no distance. Our family group texts and photo streams are lighting up now as much as ever. And all this applies to staying connected to grandkids as well!
The best transitions in life are bittersweet. It means things have been so good that you hate to leave them and yet the future is so bright and exciting. You can have it both ways to an extent. Treasure the past but embrace the next step.
It’s good to make it a family affair when any family member makes a shift. We don’t see Josh and his family as being taken away or leaving us. Parents, siblings, and cousins are all sowing his family into God’s work. We spent several days together then prayed for them as a family.
Help your child become the person they were created to be by learning to let go.
And, Josh—we’re with you. Stand sure. Stay on target. Hit your mark. Now, go build something great!
Question: What have you found helps you to let go at important mile markers in your child's life? Share your answer in the comments below.