When Should Parents Let Go? Establishing Healthy Parent-Child Boundaries
Parenting is a marathon and not a sprint so we go all in. But when should parents let go?
Unlike a major athletic event though, we get close to zero training time. Though there are a lot of us running side by side, there isn’t a crowd of bystanders cheering us on. We can study up and ask around, but until we’ve assumed the role, the level of involvement can sound a bit “extra“.
Without experiencing that protective love firsthand, there’s no way to anticipate how we’ll react. Even still, as we decide we’re not going to do it like the rest of parents, I would wager there aren’t many who start out asking, “When should parents let go?” Seems a bit grim and cart before the horse.
As we navigate the preparation and work to manage our expectations, we get a lot of conflicting advice. Many of us decide everyone is well-meaning but clearly flawed, so we go about figuring it out on our own. A whole new set of trials and triumphs result just during the time we’re anticipating our first new addition to the family. During that time, we throw ourselves fully into the task of bettering ourselves for the role so we’ll be more likely to achieve perfect scores and be more helpful than everyone else was for us.
Maybe this stepping out on our own to blaze a new path is helpful training ground, eventually leading us toward being able to confidently answer the question “when should parents let go?“.
When Should Parents Let Go?
First, let’s clarify what “letting go” as a parent means.
It is not flipping a switch on your levels of caring about your child. Nor is it an across the board sink or swim approach, though that may be what’s needed for a season.
Letting go from a parent’s perspective is reconciling that your child, regardless of age, is here to serve a predestined purpose that may not line up with your original dreams for their life. By “letting go”, we behold this gift who bears God’s image and acknowledge they were intentionally created for His plans, purpose and glory rather than our own.
So, when should parents let go? In short, when you sense you’re getting in the way of who God created your child to be. Clearly, this isn’t intentional, but as dreamers and creators, we plan and anticipate a specific path for our kids. Dreaming and hoping for our kids is certainly a normal and a very dear part of parenting. In the process of making our plans, however, we must be certain to trust God with the steps.
“A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9 (NKJV)
Why Healthy Parent-Child Boundaries Are Important
As a rule of thumb, kids push against boundaries. It’s part of the learning process and sometimes they just aren’t mature enough to recognize that a boundary even exists. When kids cross a boundary, if I’m in need of extra space and especially before coffee, I’d be tempted to answer “this very second. Right. Now.” to anyone who wistfully wondered when should parents let go?
On the other hand, as parents, we’re often led for a number of reasons to cross the line of advising and providing loving guidance to performing total overhauls to “fix” situations and eradicate any hint of pain for our children. Protection is instinctual but there is a fine line between loving and standing in the way of natural consequences that our children so desperately need for personal and spiritual growth.
Releasing your child to God automatically establishes a healthy parent-child boundary.
Stop Comparing Your Child To Others
Having healthy parent-child boundaries helps you stop comparing your child to others.
With boundaries set for ourselves in how we react to our own child’s ups and downs, we can more readily retract our controlling behaviors. Kids have just as much of a God-given purpose as we do. They were knit together on purpose with the beautiful threads that make them unique.
Seeing our kids and those they’re surrounded by as eternal beings with purpose, naturally leads us to ease up on the comparison! We can forgive those that aren’t as bright and shiny as our super star children. Additionally, we can love those kids that are far shinier in the one mega-frustrating category we wish we could polish up or at least cover up in our own babes. We can even be friends with their parents.
Letting our kids be themselves and showing them deep parental love that is strong and sweet, foreshadows for them the love they’ll get to know as they embark on a personal relationship with their Heavenly Father.
In letting go of this idea of impossible perfection, we become more approachable and far more relatable to others. This is something “church people” aren’t known for nearly enough.
Personal and Spiritual Growth
Letting go and trusting God is a huge factor in spiritual growth, but it’s also a big factor in personal growth.
When we surrender our hearts and submit to his ways being higher than our own, we can also enjoy the personal growth he’s doing in us. The mystery of knowing how to make your mind, body and spirit work together is greatly simplified when we take a look at how intentionally we were created.
The pieces to this mind, body, spirit connection aren’t all that separate, after all! When we recognize our fears are running the show, we need to take a breath and pray for God to guide our steps. No doubt, our kids need wisdom and encouragement in the right direction. We cannot nonchalantly say “it’s in God’s hands” and do nothing more. It’s our responsibility though to do a heart check and be sure that what we’re pushing for is indeed His will. If so, he can do so much more when we humbly request his guidance. Putting our focus on God’s will lets us share God with our kids rather than enforce God over our kids.
Answering “when should parents let go?” is far easier when we’re operating within healthy parent-child boundaries. It also allows for personal and spiritual growth for every member in our family.
Find Freedom in Letting Go and Trusting God
Don’t mistake what I’m saying! We must do our very best as parents. Part of that will be asking for forgiveness when we need it, and researching and advocating with the best of the best. Do all the things. Be all in. Mama Bear it when needed. Go that extra 500 miles.
But in the end, trusting the God that made that child and crafted them with a purpose bigger than your dreams is a freeing approach.
Inevitably, there will be a piece of the dream that doesn’t match the reality. When that happens, we have to remember he had dreams of what they’d be long before we were created. Incredibly, he saw it best to match your child to be parented by you and my child to be parented by me. There is no mistake in the make and model we’ve received. We’re already in his plan! Letting go and trusting God is simply an acknowledgement of his plans being above ours.
I recently wrote about how I learned all about releasing your child to God and what it took for me to find freedom in letting go and trusting God. Maternal instincts are strong! Sometimes they’re so strong that we have to have a real “come to Jesus” meeting with ourselves. Our God is good and gracious and his ways are above ours. He cannot be unfaithful because he cannot be untrue to himself. So no matter how high we see our kids soar or how prodigal and low they go, He is steady. We can trust him with our kids and we can be honest with him about how it makes us feel.
Pulling ourselves back to let him work fully in our kids is no small thing. It is an immeasurable gift of love!
So much I love/need here but especially this… “In letting go of this idea of impossible perfection, we become more approachable and far more relatable to others. This is something “church people” aren’t known for nearly enough… Incredibly, he saw it best to match your child to be parented by you and my child to be parented by me. There is no mistake in the make and model we’ve received. We’re already in his plan! Letting go and trusting God is simply an acknowledgement of his plans being above ours… Our God is good and gracious and his ways are above ours. He cannot be unfaithful because he cannot be untrue to himself. So no matter how high we see our kids soar or how prodigal and low they go, He is steady. We can trust him with our kids and we can be honest with him about how it makes us feel.” XOXO
Anonymous was me 🤣❤
Oh, good! Because I thought of you when I wrote that last line about being honest! 😘 You helped me with that!
Love this gentle push and your heart behind it. “There is no mistake in the make and model we’ve received. We’re already in his plan! Letting go and trusting God is simply an acknowledgement of his plans being above ours.” Amen sister!
Thank you! I’m definitely feeling some spirit-led surrender these days!
Rachel… what an amazing post talking about when parents should let go. I think this is such an important conversation to be having, and I love how you approached the topic!
Thanks so much, Cecily! It’s one of those things that can sound impossibly difficult until you go all in. So thankful that once again, God shows up and does the heavy lifting on this one!
An interesting read about when parents should let go. It may be a challenge but parents should trust that they have trained their kids up in the right way and trust them to be able to make there own decisions and learn from them. Their kids may not always do the right thing but their upbringing will be a constant reminder to them and the Holy Spirit is there with them along the way.
Yes! And it is often easier said than done, but I know the Holy Spirit guides us, too!
I love how you included the spiritual aspect of letting our kids go. I hadn’t thought much about it, but your points are excellent!
Thanks, Heather! As I’ve been focusing on surrender, I’m seeing spiritual aspects everywhere! It’s been worthwhile, for sure!