As children get older, their parents let go little by little. Growing children earn privileges and freedom. They gain independence and try new things. The parent’s role, once large and important, becomes smaller. Parents’ voices fade as the child makes more of their own decisions and gains confidence.
That’s exactly how it is intended to happen. This process is how a child becomes a responsible adult. Little by little, even when the child has a disability.
Parents of a child who has a disability are sometimes even slower to let go. It is with the best of intentions that parents do not allow their child independence. They protect them. They do things for them. But this is not ideal for the child or the parent.
As the parent of two children with disability labels, I have learned that I can be deliberate in choosing to let go along the way. Here are some examples and ideas of how I let go:
These steps to letting go may seem small, but they each come with their own challenges. They require responsibility. They allow independence and foster choice and self-determination.
The challenges? Both of my children have developmental disabilities. My daughter is mostly non-verbal and doesn’t understand danger. My son struggles with social situations and has an explosive temper. They both require accommodations for these activities. As a result, each child’s situation requires much planning and forethought.
But it is important that my growing children are allowed to grow. It is important that they are allowed to make choices. It is vital that they take risks. It is critical that they develop relationships with others. It makes sense that their lives are governed by their own preferences. It is right that they are stretched.
Disability or not, parents need to let their children go. Let them grow. Let them go.
You can find more information on children transitioning to adulthood on this website.
Before I had my son, I was a special education teacher. I was one of those teachers who believed that these "special" kids needed to be kept safe. After teaching in a self-contained special education class, my views slowly started to change.
Children grow up having dreams—dreams of being a princess or a football player or a doctor or a teacher. They have so many dreams. The world is their oyster. When your child has a disability, those dreams are different.