Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Helicopter Parents

Parenting is tough. It seems each generation of children is asked to grow up faster than the one before. Our kids face so many more options and temptations than we ever did. And there's always plenty of advice from parents, in-laws, and friends for kids nowadays too -- as well as plenty of criticism when they aren't quite doing it right either.

But I'm not here to give advice or criticism -- just to offer some perspective. My one and only child is now half way through the first semester of his freshman year at college. From everything I can tell, he is absolutely thriving there, and we praise God.

Looking back on the last couple of months, I'd have to say the thing that really surprises me is how quickly he grew up -- or maybe I should say, how quickly he had to grow up. Just last year we had access to his grades, and we talked to him every night. He didn't have to worry about laundry, or food, or getting himself to school. Now it's all on him. He's got a lot of decisions to make, and it's up to him to make those decisions. We even have to rely on him to tell us how he's doing academically, if he chooses to, that is.

Over the last decade Julie Lythcott-Haims, dean of freshmen at Stanford University, noticed more and more young men and women are having trouble adjusting to college. They aren't used to taking care of themselves, making their own decisions, dealing with the challenges of life. She says the problem is their helicopter parents. They constantly hover and swoop in to personally intervene every time their child faces a difficulty.

So I would encourage all the parents of younger children to step back from time to time and consider how you are helping your children prepare for that day when you will drop them off at college, or move them into that first apartment. Are you giving them the responsibilities, the freedom, the choices, and the opportunity to learn how to make decisions for themselves? Will they know how to deal with a roommate who keeps totally different hours than they do? Will they have the confidence to make necessary alterations in their class schedule? Will they be able to sidestep peer pressure and prodding to engage in questionable activities?

But there's something far more important than even these issues: their spiritual preparation. Sometimes we are so busy running them to practice and games -- or even preparing them for college and career -- that we neglect to impress on them the importance of their faith -- of staying connected to their Creator and Savior. Are you demonstrating that for them? They clearly see how important (or unimportant) your faith is to you. And they're bound to take their lead from your actions.

You're concerned about their earthly life and getting them off on the right foot, and that's the way it should be. But how much more important is their eternal destiny in heaven or hell?

Nobody said saying goodbye (for a time) to a son or daughter was going to be easy. But that doesn't mean the separation should spell calamity for him or her once they've set out on their own.

How was it when your kids left the nest to go their own way? Was there much difficulty with their newfound freedom? Did it get easier for you with successive kids leaving home? Is there anything you wish you would have known (been privy to) when you had them at home, which you discovered only later?

Tell us how things went for your kid(s) when they made their exodus. How did things go for you? You can click here and tell us about it.

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