It's hard for any parent to let go when their children are ready to move out and begin lives of their own, but there are special challenges and considerations for parents of adult children with disabilities. Bea and Mariano Sanz, Born This Way cast member Cristina Sanz's parents, explain how they are coping with watching their daughter get married and gain independence.
As Cristina prepared to move out on her own, what was the hardest thing to work through as parents?
The fear of the unknown. As parents, we are always programmed to anticipate and prevent our kids' pain, whether it is emotional or physical. Not having Cristina just a few feet away from us was nerve-wracking at first.
What was the hardest part for Cristina?
For Cristina, the hardest part was keeping track of all the chores. On her own, she had to do quite a bit more chores that, before, were shared at our home.
What surprised you most about the process of helping Cristina take on adult life on her own?
Once we got over the initial shock, it was a lot less about Cristina, herself, and more about making sure the agencies and people providing the system of support were doing their job.
The biggest surprise was how much Cristina truly enjoyed being on her own. We were a little upset that she did not miss us more.
What tips can you give parents whose adult children with disabilities are interested in moving into their own place?
1. Deep breath, deep breath, deep breath.
2. Be very honest with yourself about your son or daughter's strengths and weaknesses. Good planning to work through their weaknesses will be key.
3. Personalize the support. This will be a very personal experience for a unique person.
Were you able to find healthy ways to deal with any anxieties or fears that you had during this process?
Technology helped alleviate some of our fears. For example, an app that allows her to see where we are if she needs help, and that allows us to know when she is walking to the gym or the supermarket.
Quick phone calls. Purposeful and meaningful. Non-intrusive and not overly emotional. We worked our way from several calls a day to going a couple of days without a call.
What has been the most exciting or rewarding aspects of this process for you?
It has added another experience to our life with Cristina. It is allowing us to experience something we never thought would happen. An empty nest!
Cristina's independence is also ours. The peace of mind of not having Cristina be dependent on us on a daily basis will allow us to enjoy ourselves and each other.
How has your relationship with Cristina evolved since she moved out?
We get to experience Cristina differently. It is challenging but fun to find ways to see each other.
We have instituted a "mandatory" Sunday lunch for [Cristina's husband] Angel and Cristina, and her siblings.
Bea and her like to have "Pedicure Dates" every month. They try to go out to lunch or shopping at least once a month, too.
[Mariano:] She works at my school twice a week, so our car rides give us the perfect opportunity to catch up. Our conversations have become more reflective, too.
We feel that, despite spending less time together, we are as close as ever. Quality over quantity.
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