It’s Tough to Let Go: Raising Children to be Independent

Posted October 14, 2016 by

It’s Tough to Let Go: Raising Children to be Independent

I knew having a teenager would be hard, no matter how wonderful a child my wife and I raised. And, I was right.

Riley, who is now seventeen, has immersed herself in her social circle. She has tried to set herself apart from her mom and me by discovering her own identity, which may include different opinions and beliefs from her parents. Her eyes always seem to be on her phone, and she responds to family members with one-word answers, rarely with eye contact. I realize that this is part of the whole “teen years” experience, but I still don’t like it.

I’ve always worked hard to raise my daughters in a way that prepares them to stand on their own when they are finally out of the house. Yet, this stage in Riley’s life is not what I expected. It’s not so much about her being a teen, but rather that this is the stage where she’s starting to pull away and become independent.

It’s this time when she has her own car and stays out later. It’s this part of her life when we are seriously looking at colleges, and realizing that she is really going to be on her own in twelve months. She’ll have to wash her own clothes, go to the bank without our help, make sure her cell phone is paid for, be responsible for getting up on time and meeting her school assignment deadlines.

I’m finding it hard to let her go, and to believe that she’s ready. Yet, I know she’s more prepared than most. She’s doing great in her high school honor’s and college-prep courses. She’s driving great, checks in while she’s out, and comes home when she’s supposed to. She’s got a great group of friends. She probably has a better chance of success than I did when I was her age.

So, why do I feel this way? Maybe it’s because she has always needed her mom and me since the second she entered this world. She needed us to feed her, bathe her, help her to sleep, teach her to speak and walk, explain the rules, teach her new games, read her books, and answer her questions.

Now that she’s on the cusp of what we’ve prepared her for, I think I may have neglected one crucial aspect—I was so busy getting Riley ready to leave the nest that I forgot to prepare myself. I’m not sure how to be a father to her in our new roles, but I’m not worried that I won’t be able to learn.

When she was born seventeen years ago, I had no idea how to be a father to a baby (to anyone for that matter), but I learned as I went. I know this next chapter in our relationship will be written as we go. I am confident that Riley will be fine, will prevail, will succeed as she prepares to take this giant step. And, I know that I will be fine, will prevail, and will succeed as a father of this new young woman. It’s just new, and a little scary (probably for us both). I guess that’s what makes it so fun. It’s what I signed up for when I became a dad.


Leon Scott Baxter, "The Dumbest Genius You'll Ever Meet," has been an elementary educator for the last eighteen years. He's the author of Secrets of Safety-Net Parenting, which helps parents raise happy and successful children. Learn more about raising happy successful children at or on Baxter's YouTube Channel.

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  1. donna.edwards1010 Report

    I am a MOB (mother of the bride) whose daughter is getting married this September. As a MOB, I was initially elated that she would be getting married, but now I find my self obsessing over episodes of “Snapped” and “Murder Made Me Famous.” I just do not want to let go!!!

    On a serious note, as the wedding plans are being developed, I am struck by how much time is being spent on the wedding and how little time is being devoted to the upcoming marriage. I had promised myself that I would be the “good” mother/ mother -in-law and only give advice when asked. I now find myself wanting to share unsolicited advice on the realities of post honeymoon marriage. So far I have resisted the urge and am channeling this energy into writing a book. Is anyone else having a hard time letting go adult children?

  2. AmandaWilliams3 Report

    This is such an amazing article. These are exactly the fears I was having when enrolling my sweet 16 year old in her drivers ed course. My fears are not completely quelched, but I know that I need to trust her more, because she has been raised to make decisions for herself. She will do great in her course but that doesn’t mean there won’t be a nervous wreck mom at home just waiting until she is safely inside our front door, haha!

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