Thursday, July 18, 2024
    HomeLifeDetachment is a prerequisite for a successful life

    Detachment is a prerequisite for a successful life


    After years of caring and responsibility, many parents find it difficult to let their growing daughters and sons go. But “children are not born to meet their parents’ expectations,” says psychologist Sandra Konrad. And behind the pain of parting lies a new relationship at eye level.

    They have the middle school certificate or the Abitur in their pockets, so for many young people the next steps in life are pending: moving out of the children’s room, which was a refuge for years, maybe a degree or an apprenticeship in another city. Many parents mix with the joy of completing their degree and the spirit of optimism. Once again, the children move a little further away.

    Detachment or steps towards more autonomy take place throughout life, says qualified psychologist Sandra Konrad in an interview with But there are always milestones of “external detachment”, including moving out, achieving financial independence, choosing a partner or starting your own family. “Below that, there is an emotional release that is incredibly important. Because if we are not released, we can never lead a self-determined life. Then we basically never grow up,” says Konrad.

    In 2022, the average age when leaving parental home in Germany was 24.5 years for men and 23 years for women. But even those who no longer live with their parents do not necessarily have to be relieved. In her book “Not without my parents”, which has just been published, the therapist describes some exemplary cases. There is Florian, who is still financially dependent on his parents in his mid-forties, Karl, who allows his mother to endanger his son’s health by eating the wrong food, or Meike, whose mother keeps calling until she is “mellow” and interrupts her work for a conversation full of accusations.

    They all live a basically adult life, just one in which they remain unhealthily entangled with their parents. Konrad emphasizes that replacement is not a one-way street. The detachment process involves developmental tasks for both children and parents. “While children have to take turns, parents have to let their children go,” says the psychologist, who has been supporting people as a systemic individual, couple and family therapist for years.

    pain without guilt

    When children so clearly stand on their own two feet, it is also an insult for the parents, a farewell associated with feelings of loss. Their care, their advice, the home-cooked food, none of that is needed anymore. “First of all, it’s important to acknowledge that, to give it space and to feel okay, something is changing here,” said Konrad. For the further development of the adolescents, however, it is important not to bear the associated pain on the children’s backs and, in the worst case, even to make them feel guilty. It’s fatal to signal: “Because you’re going out into life now, I’ll be unhappy. Or if you leave me, I’ll get sick. Or our marriage will fall apart.”

    Instead, mothers and fathers should share the pain with other adults and try to take care of themselves as best they can, but do not want this care from the children. Friendships or partnerships could do that. In these relationships, one can talk about the pain of loss and the gaps that may open up in one’s life. “Sometimes it’s also a good step to have a few therapy sessions, just to position yourself better and to be able to process this time well without it having a negative effect on the relationship level with the children.”

    Some parents are better able to let go of their children. They also see the opportunities that come with growing children: less responsibility, for example, or more time for your own needs. Others clung to their children with all their might, making life difficult for them as well as for themselves. “Anyone who resists the natural detachment of their children has to expend a lot of energy and experiences some grief,” Konrad states in her book. Because it is quite stressful not to agree with your children’s choice of partner, to want to raise the grandchildren yourself or to support the children financially until the end of your life.

    Trust becomes self-confidence

    Parents in particular who have not been separated from their own parents find it difficult to allow their children this separation. They really resent the children if they have their own, self-determined lives. “The best way to support your own children when you are separated from your parents is when you are healthy,” is Konrad’s experience.

    The therapist emphasizes that letting go does not mean being indifferent to the children’s farewells or even expelling them. Rather, support at this age simply looks different. “Every time parents place their trust in their children, that turns into self-confidence in the child,” emphasizes Konrad. It starts early in childhood and then continues. “Sufficiently good parents are a safe haven for their children, but they also help them to move into the world. They also support them in their independence.” When the offspring leaves the nest, sons and daughters ideally have a secure bond, a healthy sense of self-esteem and the ability to deal with conflict. All of this is created in childhood and adolescence. From Konrad’s point of view, when children are eventually able to develop a relationship on an equal footing with their parents, that is proof that someone was a good mother or father. “They lead their own lives and are still connected to their parents.”

    She frequently asks people who are deeply involved with their parents and have a lot of guilt about what kind of relationship they would like to have with their children if they were in the parenting role. “And in my more than 20 years of professional experience, I have never had anyone say I want my children to come to me because they feel guilty. Everyone says: I want my children to come to me voluntarily and with pleasure.” This ultimately shows the quality of relationships: “That you want to see each other.”

    However, she often observes that the non-detachment is unconsciously transmitted over generations. The unconditional love of which parents were not capable should be given to partners. Children are burdened by having to prove their love as if they were the parents and not the other way around. A transgenerational cycle of excessive demands and unhealthy family entanglements continues. “But children are not born to fulfill their parents’ expectations, children are born to lead their own lives.”

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