When to let go

TINTalk - Tintin Bersola-Babao - The Philippine Star

Today’s column tries to answer the question “How far should parents meddle in their children’s affairs?” with the help of Herald Cruz, head of Parenting Cluster of the Center for Family Ministries (CEFAM) at the Ateneo de Manila, and his wife, Melissa Cruz, also of CEFAM.

First thing, what is the correct legal age? At what age is a person already considered an adult?

Herald: “According to new scientific research, total maturation of the brain happens at around 25 years of age, so, at this point, parents should learn to step back and let their children process and be responsible for their actions, although ideally, the letting go happens little by little even way before this time.”  

What are the parental boundaries over their child’s life if below and above the legal age?

Melissa: “The younger a child is, the more rigid the boundaries must be for the protection of the child. This includes the physical and emotional boundaries for the child. As they grow older and move on to adulthood, boundaries must be more loosed and expand to allow the child to transition into adulthood.” 

Does this mean that parents have every right to “control” the child during the formative years? If yes, why? If not, what are the boundaries? 

Herald: “The intention of parenting is guarding and guiding. Part of guarding is setting up needed controls for the purpose of protection, while in guiding, this is when you instill the non-negotiables and values. It is believed by experts that during the first seven years, children rarely question the views and stand of parents. Afterwards, they begin to develop their own values. So parents do not have a ‘right’ to control, but have a responsibility to guard and guide during the formative years.” 

When the child is not anymore of minor age, do the parents still have the right to meddle in their affairs? If yes, in what aspects? If no, why?

Herald: “Meddling is the informal term used. In family psychology, that would be termed as a relationship with very ‘diffuse boundaries.’

“We would first like to answer the question of why parents meddle, and this is because they care. The answer for, if parents should meddle is with an adult or a child is — yes and no. Yes, they can give advice, but the buck should stop with the adult child. It is also up to the adult child on how much influence they will allow their parents over them. Parents must be respected and honored however one must live life the way one sees fit.”

In terms of love life, sino ba ang dapat na masunod? Ang puso o ang sarili? O ang magulang?

Herald: “Many times in terms of love life, it is possible that parents and close friends can see things that we don’t. However, after much consideration of all inputs, the final decision rests with the adult.”

What are the effects on one’s psyche if he/she allows the parents to still make decisions for him/her even at a legal age? 

Herald: “One of the more important tasks as one matures is the ability to think and decide on his/her own and accept the consequences of his or her actions. If this does not happen, then the person’s maturity is hampered and this can make them dependent instead of having a mature inter-dependent relationship not only with their parents, but with other people around them.” 

What if the child refuses to listen to helpful “advice” from the parents and insists on being left alone? 

Herald: “Then the parents must allow their adult child to be an adult in this situation. Give them the freedom to face the consequences of their actions, and make the home a safe place where unconditional love is always available.”

When should parents leave their child on his/her own?

Herald: “This varies greatly from situation to situation. The important thing to note is that the parenting boundaries change as the maturity of the child changes.” 

What to do with “prodigal” children? Kindly define what a “prodigal child” is?

Herald: “If we will look at the original parable in the Bible, the emphasis is not on the lost Son, but on the love of the Father. Our responsibility as parents is to love our children unconditionally, no ifs or buts.”

Are there any conditions or exceptions for parents to be allowed to meddle in their children’s lives?

Herald: “Parenting an adult child is different from parenting minors. With adult children: 1. We can only give advice when needed or asked; 2. We need to respect the natural boundaries that occur when children grow into adulthood; and 3. We should not enable them (sometimes by too much meddling) by making decisions for them, sobrang pakikialam, because the adult child will never grow up emotionally and will not be able to learn important life lessons. 

“However, when it’s an issue of safety, illegal activities or psychological issues, then it is the obligation of the parent to be actively involved in the welfare of their children. However, this should be done in consultation with identified experts in the field because if we are too emotionally involved, our perspective can be colored. (Example: A medical or psychiatric condition of a child.)”

Letting go of someone ain’t easy. What more if it is your own child? But as much as we love them and care for them and will do everything to protect them, the inevitable will happen: Someday we will just have to let go, and trust that we have planted the right seeds in their hearts and minds, so that they will be strong and courageous enough to spread their own wings and fly on their own.

(I’m inviting EntrePInoys to join my bazaar. Filipino-made products, Pinoy brands and businesses will enjoy discounted rates. My Summer Bazaar will be on May 23 to 26 at the Filinvest Tent in Alabang, the latest jewel of the south. For inquiries, call 931-0852 or e-mail [email protected].)

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