Eugene C. Roehlkepartain PhD

A Parenting Paradox—Holding Tight and Letting Go

rethinking family engagement

Almost a century ago, the Lebanese American poet Kahlil Gibran wrote:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you. (The Prophet, 1923)


Gibran’s words capture perhaps the greatest paradox of parenting. On the one hand, parents are—and need to be—deeply attached to and invested in their children.

On the other hand, a primary task of parenting is to prepare children to take responsibility for their own lives and letting them go so they become their own best selves in the world. 

Beyond “Singing to the Choir”: Rethinking Family Engagement

rethinking family engagement

A few weeks ago, I led a workshop on family engagement for prevention specialists. I asked them what makes engaging families challenging. Here are some typical responses:

  • Families are busy.
  • The cycles of dysfunction in so many families.
  • Every family is different.
  • It’s hard to access families.
  • Families don’t want help.
  • Finding transportation to participate in programs.
  • The families we hope to reach don’t show up. We’re just  singing to the choir.
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