Learning to Let Her Survive on Her Own
There will come a time when you do need to let go a bit. The year before college is a year of transitions, and while you may not be ready, it's time to begin to trust. So long as she is safe and making relatively good decisions, this will be the time to see if you've helped her grow up responsible enough for independence.
It strikes you when you mail that first college application out, or when you first realize she'll soon be eighteen — old enough to serve her country if she so chooses. With all your holding back and watching over, it's time to let her begin to be free. This can be hard for parents. After all, seventeen-year-old girls, for the most part, are far from fully mature. But if you've done your job, it's time to set her a bit free and — if necessary — to let her learn from her own mistakes.
Let's say your daughter wants to go to a big nearby city with friends for the day and come home long after dinner. She's been there with you many times over the years, and she has a plan. This is the time to let her go. Encourage her to be safe: park in a good garage or use public transportation; don't meet up with strangers and stay in the safe parts of the city. Beyond that, though, let her go.
Develop a code word for bail out. Ask your daughter to call you at a certain time during the night during any activity. If she says the code word, that's your signal to insist she must come home. She'll fight you for show, but thank you when she gets home safe from the bad situation.
Another situation might be an all-night event, such as the prom. Kids like to stay out all night for these major events, and she's at an age now where, in the right situation, you can trust her. It's still smart to talk to the parents who are hosting the kids, but let your daughter know she's earned the right to go, and then trust her. An uneventful night will be reason to celebrate her maturity, and a troubled night (such as being caught drinking) will be reason to let her face her punishment as a near adult. After all, that is what she is now.
So what if she is given a freedom and does something wrong? Most parents agree that rules are in place for a reason — that is until their own children have to face the consequences of them. Let's say your daughter is a star tennis player. Her senior year play will be crucial to her getting a tennis scholarship. But a month before, she gets caught drinking at a school event. The rules state she is to be suspended from school and kicked off sports for the remainder of the year. Do you go to the school board and fight it or let the chips fall? The strong parent chooses the latter. Your child knew the rules and chose to abuse her freedom. Facing consequences, no matter how harsh they may be, is the only real choice for helping her grow into a responsible adult. Parents need to accept this for the sake of the young adult they are raising.