A key question in parenting

                         Not talking to you. Photo by devra minicooper93402

Child rearing is hard work with long hours, huge expenses and exhausting tasks. It includes giving children the tools necessary to thrive as adults to prepare them for a successful, self-sufficient life. But perhaps the most difficult parental assignment is stepping back and releasing responsibility.

The journey

The journey to independence starts slowly. It may begin with parents teaching good decision-making skills such as encouraging their toddler to choose between a couple of outfits to wear or two snacks to eat. Then there is the potty training: one giant loss of diaper expense; one small step towards independence.

The teen years arrive like the month of March: with a roar. Authority is challenged, teen opinion is asserted and parents are given a peephole into the inevitable future of their offspring jumping off to find their own identity.

It is the cycle of life.

The question

Parents, how would you answer the following question? How would your child answer it?

If you were reading your autobiography, would you, the main character, be a coaster or a catalyst in your life story?

I first wrote this question over a year ago in my post What’s in your college autobiography?

I was inspired by a then homeless Long Island teen, Samantha Garvey, who became a semifinalist in the Intel science competition. Her accomplishment gained national recognition and she was invited to attend President Barak Obama’s 2012 State of the Union Address in Washington, D.C.

It doesn’t matter whether you are out of college, in college or college-bound, the answer to the above question describes whether you are a reactor or actor in your life’s story. It’s about how well you can assume responsibility and maximize opportunities. It’s about being able to able to tackle challenges and self-motivate.

While kids may be happily excited about their new adventure, parents may be tearily (my new word) ambivalent. We know there are good times and bad ahead because the road of life has some potholes along the way. We may not be able to prevent the negative but we can help our children by providing them with the values, confidence and skills to turn their lemons into lemonade.

The goal

For the final lap of the transition from child to adult, parents often look to higher education to share in the preparation. The college-bound will not only receive academic knowledge but gather valuable life experience through internships and cultural opportunities.

This raises the bar on the importance of college choice, majors, etc. And the level of parental stress, when kids veer off in a different direction. Keeping communication open and having a chance to exchange viewpoints is part of parenting an adult child. Setting expectations for college for students is part of the dialogue.

The college years provide a chance for children to practice independence on campus before they leave the family home to establish their own. Will they coast or be the catalyst in their college autobiography?

Parents, you gave your children the tools so be ready when it is time to step back.

P.S. There may be times when you step back in but these will be less and less frequent. Not just because your child has become an independent adult but because you have found plenty of other ways for your time and money to fill your empty nest!

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