Abby Sunderland: A Free Range Kid

When 16 year old Abby Sunderland attempted to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world, there was a lot of controversy – some called it reckless and accused her parents of child abuse. Others who think childhood quests are an endangered species applauded Abby’s confidence, sailing prowess and sense of adventure.

Sailor Abby Sunderland (R) speaks at a news conference as she sits next to her brother Zac Sunderland in Los Angeles, California, June 29, 2010. Sunderland was rescued safely from her stricken yacht Wild Eyes in the remote southern Indian Ocean during an attempt to circumnavigate the world. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY)

You may be interested in learning more about Abby. Here MSNBC traces her journey through articles and video. And Abby talks about her love of the sea and sailing experience as well as her inspiration and motivation.

Who hasn’t had dreams of wanderlust? When my husband was the surgeon on a naval aircraft carrier, and our children were toddlers, the three of us followed his ship along the Mediterranean for six months. Here’s an article in Politics Daily that traces the history of young and older women who took a chance that resulted in a unique experience. Just like Abby and her parents, they likely weighed the risks and made a decision.

Parenting is about values. It can be a tough choice between assuring kids’ safety and encouraging their independence. If you value self-reliance and independence, perhaps you would choose the free-range option. You may decide that you can live with the worry and that the risks are manageable. There is no right answer.

As your teenagers begin to drive and enjoy their newfound freedom, letting go may be harder than you thought. Are you having trouble cutting the apron strings? If you are still trying to protect them from life’s normal ups and downs, begin to take a step back by following these practical tips:

Remember what it was like for you growing up. How did you use your personal strengths and resources to become more self sufficient? Put some of these good ideas to work now. Give your growing kids emotional support but let them explore and learn for themselves.

Give up old habits of micromanaging. Modern technology makes it so easy to stay connected. But you have to let go sooner or later. When you continue to get worried or upset, you’re giving your children the message that you don’t trust they can handle life on their own.

Minimize your financial assistance. Sure, you need to take care of the basic necessities, but encourage your kids to take on more personal responsibility. Beginning in high school, insist that they get a part-time job and open a bank account. Pull back as they learn new time and money management skills.

Teach your children how to problem solve. Negative feelings are sometimes difficult to face head-on, but the rewards can be more honesty and a renewed sense of trust. Help them learn to cooperate and compromise. Be flexible in resolving your family issues, as you see the situation from their perspective as well as from your own.

Here’s an article from the growing child’s perspective. In the Huffington Post, a young woman writes about how comfortable not leaving the nest can be, especially with ongoing financial support. She offers tips to parents about what may motivate their children to move on. Isn’t your ultimate goal for them to be on their own?

If you want to read more about how to reach your goals, please join the email list to the left of this post. You can receive our free monthly newsletter, Stepping Stones, and download a free ebook about courage. And if you’re wrestling with some of these family issues yourself, how about weighing in?

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