Fostering Independence

A Parent's Perspective on Studying Abroad

This is the second article in a series on how as parents we got to the place where we could confidently send our youngest daughter to study at university 4,000 miles away in another country.

This weekend I had a father of several young children tell me that he's not sure he could send his little girl to study in another country. Then he added that he wasn't sure he would be able to handle sending her off to college.

This attachment between parents and children is natural. We too have had our share of tears and fears but that is not what defines the relationship with our children.

When our daughter was born, even while holding her at the hospital, I remember thinking that one day I would have to give her away. I hope that we are always best friends and that we always talk to each other but someday she will be a wife and mother with children of her own.

Assuming that our children live to at least 80 years old, we only raise them for one fourth of their lives. Most of our time together on earth will be as adults. We need to raise them with that in mind. It's only for a brief time that children are dependent on their parents. It's our job to foster independence in our children.

Every college student is learning to live on their own. 

College students are becoming adults and starting to take on greater responsibility. The real issue with learning independence is not physical proximity to home, but the social maturity of the child. Some kids can live at home, attend a community college and still develop independence skills.

With the global Internet, we still communicate with her every day - it's just a lot harder to physically be there to do things for her. So it's important that students studying overseas have enough self confidence and street smarts to make informed and intelligent decisions.

She purchased a cell phone on her own, is buying groceries and cooking her own meals, and learning about choosing a bank account. She is navigating public transportation and having to remember her room key. Mistakes will be made. But we gave her the confidence to ask questions, make mistakes and learn from them.

Letting them fail builds resiliency to adversity

Parents, my best advice is to let your kids fail. Stop bailing them out or protecting them from ever having their feelings hurt. A child that is surrounded by a loving and supportive environment knows how to mitigate risk, and builds resiliency to adversity. Determine what kind of person your child will become and train them to that end.

"Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it." - Proverbs 22:6

Read the previous article: Explaining the Cost

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