How do you know when your children are grown and independent? I find it hard to let go of my total grip as parent and guardian. What traits were you looking for in your children as they became grown adults you could trust to be independent?

Oct 15, 2023 by Anthony Damaschino, in Blog
Is Your Child Independent? The Empty Nest Bleuprint
Independence - Financial, Personal, and Emotional
Great question. Independence can mean a lot of things to people. As a parent, I wasn’t as structured as I’m going to outline below, but I did look for independence in three areas: Financial, Personal, and Emotional. Here is my take on each. Financial independence equates to my child being able to support themselves financially. I’ll give them a pass for being on the family cell phone plan into their 20’s. This is the easiest measure of responsibility. Personal independence or responsibility can be defined as my child making their own life choices, such as daily time management, self-care, and personal organization. This is harder to measure because once they have left, this is happening outside your line of sight. For example, there is an assumption they are showing up to class, work, or appointments, but you never really know. Emotional independence means they are able to manage their emotional life on their own (relationships, pressure, mood, stress, anxiety). I would caveat this last point as ‘mostly on their own,’ in that seeking advice and help emotionally is healthy. However, they may not be reaching emotional independence if they are emotionally dependent on another person.
In Chapter Nine of The Empty Nest Blueprint, titled Pre-Launch Advise, I outline six areas a parent may want to focus on when their child leaves the nest. Each of these things lends itself to independence in one of the above three areas. However, it was not my expectation that when my children left the nest, they would be fully independent. My expectation was that I would retain some financial responsibility, perhaps some personal input, and be a source of emotional support. As one could guess, my 18-year-old freshman in college needed more support and guidance than when they were seniors in college just three years later. Maturity, self-reliance, and independence grew exponentially over the first few years out of the nest.
Each of the three traits, financial, personal, and emotional responsibility/independence, grew at different paces for each of my children. There is no set timeline or measuring stick. I have no doubt that some children are ready at seventeen, whereas others may not become ‘fully independent’ into their late twenties or later. Two of my three children are fully independent based on the criteria I outlined below. One is close, but still on her journey.