How To Let Go of Adult Children

You Have to Undo the Mother Chain and Release Them to the Wild

It is here! The day you dreamed of for years has finally arrived. All those days of carpools and freezing as you watch your son stand on the sidelines hoping that today he will get in the game—they are over. The days of the door slamming shut and nagging your child about getting that “pig sty clean” are finally, blessedly at an end. You are filled with relief and joy.

What? You aren’t? Yeah, but, remember when you thought what a great day this would be and could not wait for it? Okay, you are feeling sad and already lonely—even though she does not leave for college for another week. Oh my God, what are you going to do?

Be comforted in the fact that you are not the only parent to ever be surprised at the intensity of the sadness you are feeling. Let me give you some advice that might help a little.

  1. Chain her in her room so she cannot leave. Alright, you can’t do that. Instead be grateful that you have raised an independent individual who is ready to take life’s next step.
  2. Move into the dorm with him. Well, now, wouldn’t that be a sight? Mamma’s boy has to have mommy live in the dorm with him. Besides, I am not sure, but I think there are rules against that kind of thing. And it makes you look like your family tree has no branches on it.
  3. Plan a day for just the two of you to spend together. Take off work and just play. It may require some planning ahead. Just remember if you plan to hike on an unmaintained trail in the mountains, take extra food and water, a flashlight with extra batteries, a GPS, a satellite phone, and a book on how to send smoke signals. (It is a long story, but my son and I did have some bonding time that day!).
  4. Write a letter to your child for her to read once she gets to school, basic training, or wherever she is off to. Use the time to tell her how proud you are of her and list the reasons why you know she will be successful. Emphasize the wonderful qualities she possesses so she can go back and re-read them later when she is feeling down. Stress the fact that you are a phone call or an email away and that you will come running if she ever needs you.
  5. Have a ‘set down’ with him before he leaves. Use this time to discuss finances and checkbooks. Explain carefully about the Devil called CREDIT CARD and how it sneaks up on college students and steals their souls. Ok, it is not that serious, but…! Tell him about some of your experiences—good and bad—when you were first on your own. In that way you can answer some questions before he ever has to ask them.
  6. Be brave on the big day. Try not to cry and cling to him and say things like “I’m losing my baby” through hysterical tears. It really embarrassed one of my kids.
  7. Remember, they are not so sad. Don’t expect them to cry. Instead you may hear things like, “Well, Mom, I think we are set here. You should get on the road.” In their minds, they are rubbing their hands together with a sinister laugh thinking, “Oh boy, I am free from the mother bonds now. I can do anything I want to do.” It is okay—think back to how you felt. Just try not to remember those things you did you never wanted your parents to find out about. I am a big believer in the fact that I don’t need to know everything!
  8. Go home and get a life! For so many years, this child has been the center of your universe. Now there is a huge hole in that life and you need to fill it up as quickly as possible. Take up a hobby, join a club, do volunteer work or run for President. Do anything that focuses on you and the future instead of the void in your soul.
  9. Remember that she is not gone forever. You will again hear the phone ringing incessantly and doors banging. But from now on, whether you admit or not, it is something of a relief when the house gets quiet again and you can look forward to the next visit.
  10. You and your child are moving into a new relationship that is great! When you can stop being just a parent and move into the friendship stage of your relationship, your world becomes complete. You can be each other’s confidantes and buddies. It is the best! You are no longer responsible for anything where this soul is concerned. You can just love him. You can feel pride from watching him making a difference in the world, just like he always made a difference in yours. Look forward to that companionship!
  11. The only thing worse than letting go of your child is never getting her out of the house. When you are sad, just picture a 35 year old playing video games yelling to you for more ice cream or chips while you are doing her laundry and cleaning her room because she is still not doing it.

Pat Montgomery can be heard weekly on Parents Rule! radio show every Thursday 2-3 pm EST on

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