18 and Out: Do You Need to Let Your Child Loose?

According to TV presenter, broadcaster and journalist Vanessa Feltz, her Grandpa said he was responsible for his children’s wellbeing for 18 years, but after that it was time to fly the nest. Feltz says her father held a similar view, pushing his children to find holiday and Saturday jobs, so that they could pay for their own clothes, outings and fripperies, but is this the way forward for family wellness? Do you need to let your children go and make their own mistakes?

Feltz says, ‘At 22 I was an adult, sharing with my husband bills, mortgage and the intoxicating joy of being entirely independent. The decisions I made from that moment on were my own. I didn’t consult my parents about when to have a baby. I didn’t ask their opinion on my new kitchen units. I didn’t seek their advice years later on whether to take my first gig on the telly. Times were tough.’

However, these days we’re more reluctant to cut our children loose than ever. According to a survey conducted by the Co-operative Society, the financial, social and psychological wellness of adults aged from 18 to 30 is inextricably entwined with their parents. Parents are still bringing food to their grownup children, giving them lifts, and undertaking their household chores, where does it end? Are we in danger of infantilising the next generation of adults?

Feltz argues, ‘My hunch is that in our desire to become our children’s friends we have embroidered our role to the point where we can’t bear to relinquish control lest life buffets our beautiful babies. We have cast ourselves not just as parents but as fairy godmothers and fathers, granting wishes, providing pots of gold at the end of rainbows and trying our hardest to fling ourselves between our darlings and any form of mishap. We mean well but in robbing them of their chance to make their own mistakes we do them a dreadful disservice.’ She adds, ‘We must learn to stand back and allow our adult progeny to learn from their own experience instead of serving ours to them on a silver-plated platter.’

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