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Independence Day: Four Ways to Let Go of Your Kids

You know you should cheer on your child's growing freedom. And you do -- mostly. But for the part of you that wants to hang on just a little too much, we offer four important lessons.
Independence Day

The other day I realized a half gallon of milk had gone bad in the fridge -- and I almost cried. That's because my kids, 16 and 15, recently decided to leave our little house in the sticks and move into town with their father, 12 miles away. And on some days, reminders like sour milk or empty laundry baskets still sting.

It shouldn't have surprised me. After all, they're now just minutes from friends and school. They get to sleep an extra half hour in the morning. And as much as they say they like my new husband and the three stepsiblings who occasionally visit, they're very clear that this whole blended family idea was mine, not theirs. Yes, it's not as if I didn't know they'd be leaving pretty soon anyway, what with college looming in the near future. But did it have to happen so soon? Ouch! While I'm putting up a fairly brave (and phony) front, it's obvious to everyone around me: I'm lousy at letting go.

I'm not alone. Hyperparenting -- that 100 percent involvement in every aspect of our kids' lives -- is epidemic. In fact, being in on such decisions as whether they take Spanish or French in middle school and what the average ambient temperature in their college dorm room should be is almost the norm. "When other parents see you stepping back and allowing your child to make a mistake, for example, or not showing up at every single basketball game, some see it as neglectful," says Madeline Levine, PhD, author of The Price of Privilege (HarperCollins).

It doesn't have to be that way. Letting go will always be complicated. But you can do it with a little grace, boosting your children's independence and easing your own angst. Take a look at how to make it work for your kids -- and for you.