Two Canoes: Separating from Parents

canoesOf course, it’s already starting.

As close as the three of us are, Zed is spending more time on his own. He wants more peer time and less family time.

As my friend Ben said, my son is “growing away.” The main focus of “growing away” is giving the child permission to make their own decisions – and allowing the child to deal with the consequences of those decisions.

Many parents talk about the difficulties of this separation even though they said they knew it was coming. Maybe it’s because at this time, our parental role really changes.

It’s like riding a canoe. When your child is young, they are under your leadership and control. You are in the same canoe together. As the child gets older, they step into their own canoe. You can tell how much they want to be close to you by how far away they paddle and how close they come back. You are there as guidance. As a resource. If the child takes the canoe and heads toward the dam, you can hopefully reach them in time to help them away from the falls. But otherwise, the parent looks towards the child’s initiative for when they need guidance. The parents are there to help extract the learning from any consequences the child incurs. And to help celebrate their blossoming independence.

In the post “Another Kind of Distance,” there are ideas on how to let the child know you’re available for that guidance.

How are you maneuvering these waters as your child “grows away” from you and paddles their own canoe?



5 Responses to “Two Canoes: Separating from Parents”

  1. Our 17-year-old daughter just spent 10 days in Guatemala with a group of students & teachers from her high school. No parents. This is the longest time – and the longest distance – that she has been apart from our family, and my wife wanted to contact her via facebook, email & cell phone. I said no. No facebook, no email, no phone calls. No parents, no contact. That’s why she’s going to Guatemala. She came back tanned, smiling & malaria-free. Next year she goes to college, which we’re hoping won’t be as far away as Guatemala.

  2. This is a great website with some very insightful ideas on raising children. I wish the internet existed when I was raising mine so as to have access to this kind of information. Although my website is mainly about cooking, I do emphasis many times that a parenting skill that needs to be developed is that by the time your child leaves for college they should know how to cook. I also give numerous tips on how to achieve this skill. They will thank you down the road and you also form a bond with your children while they are helping you in the kitchen. Continue on with this great service to parents so as to give them confidence in the very rewarding task of raising their precious children.

  3. The dependence and independence starts when your child starts walking and continues forever. I remember when our son came back from college the first time and started clearing the table after dinner. His independence had made him appreciate his family even more. Sweet.

  4. While my little ones are too little for me to have my own experience, my mother got hit hard when the last of her 4 boys left. I came back from 2 years abroad and my mother tried to ground me. We had a long talk and I discussed with her the many experiences I had that made me feel that grounding was a thing of the past. She said, “You have all these experiences that have made you a man, but you’re still 18 in my head.” That illustrated it pretty well for me.


    • So often it seems difficult for the parents to change as fast as the child is changing!


Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>