The mother of a 14-year-old with heart problems turns to ‘Dear Dad’ for advice on how much freedom to give her daughter.
How do you let go of your teen and let them do things with friends by themselves? I’ll give you a bit of a back story, my oldest is 14 and she has heart and lung disease. She has had one open heart surgery and has died 5 times.
She still has a hole in her heart so you can imagine me not wanting to let go. She is not supposed to play any contact sports, however she so desperately wanted to play soccer. I allowed her to play as long as she could handle. She played for 4 yrs and had to be taken out but I allowed it because she was so passionate about it and it made her happy. She was also on a jump rope team.
When it comes to being with her friends alone at various places like football games, movies, etc., I know I can trust her. I have let her go to football games by herself but let it be known that I will pop in on any given moment. I haven’t yet but she has only gone out without me twice. As far as the movies I will not drop her off there alone – I sit in the lobby. I also insist I must know the friend and the friend’s parents before I allow my daughter to go places with them.
Am I protecting her too much? She is fully aware of her medical issues and what she can and cannot do. She understands she can die from smoking, drugs, alcohol. I am trying to let her have freedom but it’s so hard with her. I have been her protector since birth probably a little too much but had I not been that way she would not be here. Thanks in advance for your answer!
This is a tough one for me to answer, as I struggle with the same issue with my three girls. I am un-apologetically over protective by nature and have been since day one. My wife and I have totally different parenting styles and levels of comfort in terms of the freedom we allow our girls. We have ongoing conflict, but we each stick to our guns on this subject.
That being said, in the last year I have forced myself to give a little more freedom to my girls. I relocated to Florida from Connecticut and was in total shock and disbelief about the amount of freedom given to children here in the south, and at such an unimaginably young age. There are kindergarten students walking home alone, riding their bikes to school, and being allowed to ride in the front seat with air bags. It is truly horrifying to me! I certainly will not be allowing anything like that, but I do allow my girls to play with the neighborhood children outside (and I am right in the kitchen watching like a hawk). This gives my girls the sense of freedom that they need, but with the boundaries that I insist on. A year ago, I would have been right there in the road. I get that I need to empower them with a sense of freedom and independence.
As they get older, I am going to be forced to constantly revisit this issue and to consider the situations that you addressed. I can’t say definitively what I will do, but your question did give me food for thought.
My advice is to give her a little more freedom. I think it will be good for you both–she needs the sense of independence and to know that you trust her. You need to know that even when you are not around her, you are still protecting her because of the rules, morals, and behaviors you have instilled in her. I think because of her health history you have double what most parents have to worry about. I certainly understand you are afraid to let go because you fear that something can happen. Trust me, (and I better heed my own advice when the time comes) you need to give her a little more freedom and independence. If you take it in baby steps and see that she can be trusted and that she will be OK, you will help her make her way into late adolescence and early adulthood as an autonomous and independent (and safe) individual. And you, in turn, will let yourself off the hook of the burden of constant worry.
Good thoughts and energy to your daughter and to you. Keep us updated and let us know how things go.
It is difficult enough giving our growing children freedoms without having the added concern of medical issues. How much freedom is enough freedom when your child is ill?
Photo: Flickr/Alexis Nyal
Originally appeared on Dear Dad. Reprinted with permission.
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