One of the sections of my book is about lessons learned through foster care. Foster care is an intense classroom. One lesson I learned is how to let go.
A foster parent is constantly reminded that the child in their care will one day leave their family. This constant reminder forces a foster parent to prepare for letting go. A foster parent might guard their heart to avoid the pain of letting go. When a foster parent does this, they never really connect with the child. I protected my heart the first few weeks our son was with us. When I did, I felt like an underpaid and unappreciated babysitter.
Preparing to let go really is no different for a biological parent. The only difference might be timing. One day every child will leave their father and mother.
So, how do we let go?
- Remember that all children are a gift from God. Our children really belong to Him. We simply steward them for a short season.
- Remember that we want our children to leave. No one wants their adult children to live with them forever. A parent can help that not happen by starting the letting go process while the child is young.
- Make your marriage a priority. One way to begin the process while the kids are young is to prioritize your marriage over the children. Danielle and I stayed at a Bed and Breakfast last weekend. It was our first overnight away from our son. CPS placed him with us 20 months ago. We decided that we need to make our marriage a priority, both for us and for our son. When things are good with your spouse, it is easier to let go of your children.
- Allow them to develop their own identity. A child and parent’s identities get enmeshed sometimes. Parent-child enmeshed relationships make it very difficult to let go.
- Understand that it will be painful. Yes, we will miss them. Yes, we will be sad. But that is ok. It means that we loved them.
- Embrace sacrificial love. God presents the best example of sacrificial love. I learned to love my foster son. I did my best to give him my whole heart even though I had a good chance of seeing him leave our family. I chose to not protect my heart for my foster son’s benefit.
We adopted our foster son last fall. So we now know that he is not leaving our family any time soon (he is only 2 years old.) But, I know that I need to continue preparing for the day I have to let go.
Question for You: What are some other healthy ways we can let our children go?