In This Issue

Sense & Sensibility

Once Kids Fly the Coop,
Let Go and Let Guide

September 9, 2011
By Kathleen Felong
Kathy Felong
Kathy Felong

I remember clearly the moment that signaled the official end of parenting as I knew it.

It happened a few years ago when we sent our firstborn to college.  It wasn’t the teary goodbye at the dorm (though that would further seal the deal).

Instead, it took place in a well-appointed auditorium at a large and prestigious university with about a thousand other parents. My husband and I were there for our son’s (and our) orientation to college life.  While the students were herded off to a separate place to learn about other aspects of college life (a parenting tale unto itself), we were getting ready to hear an address that was focused on paying up and letting go.

The gist of the “letting go” part was this: You’ve done your job; you’ve taken them this far; they’re ready to move on; you need to move on, too. The university speaker advised us to think of ourselves not so much as “parents” now, but “coaches.” We could offer advice, but it was up to our “players” to decide for themselves how – and whether – to put that advice into play.

The other part of the orientation address – “paying up” – had to do with creatively managing the staggering cost of higher education (“staggering” was my word, not the speaker’s). The gist of this was: Even though you should “let go” emotionally, you’re still on the hook financially.

Recently, our parental role has shifted once again. Our son graduated and become one of the fortunate newly employed.  The change meant we got to let go of some of the paying up.

As such, we advised our son to get a secure apartment and the renters insurance that will protect his investment in various tech toys. (Coach’s advice: accepted.)   We advised him to invest in some decent furniture, sturdy but not costly. (Coach’s advice: rejected.) He ordered the least expensive furniture he could find at a big box store online and spent two days putting it together. (I admit to having a hard time letting go of that decision.)

We advised him to stay with a highly reputable, service-oriented insurer (you know the one) and an Agent who could help him identify the right protection as his situation evolves. (He did that, too.) We also advised that he get a safety deposit box at a bank for important papers (Coach’s advice still under consideration -- we think.)

It’s clear our coaching advice won’t always be heeded – or needed. But, as parents, we’ll always be invested in the game, and in the player. On important matters (personal safety, financial protection, the pursuit of happiness) we’ll continue to guide the consideration when we can – even if we have to learn (eventually) to let go of the decision.

Kathy Felong is a writer and editor. She works in Strategic Marketing at Erie Insurance.

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