Letting go is never easy. I know because I have been there. When my first child was getting ready to graduate from high school, I was a basket case. I watched him grow from a fussy baby who never let me get more than an hour of sleep a night, to a precocious toddler who loved to take things apart. As he grew into a teenager, I was there to guide him through the confusing world of girls and help him focus on his dream of becoming a teacher. With so much time and energy invested in his life, I couldn’t help but feel that I had the inalienable right to know where he was and what he was doing, even though he wasn’t living under my roof anymore. I was seriously just a few inches away from becoming a helicopter parent.
A new study suggests that parents who are overly protective or too involved in their children’s lives may actually do real psychological harm to them. Holly Schiffrin, a researcher from the University of Mary Washington in Virginia, found that ‘helicopter parenting negatively affected college students by undermining their need to feel autonomous and competent.’ She contributed the rise in helicopter parents to the economy and the growing fear that only those who are accepted into the best colleges will get the best jobs. These ‘hyper-parents’ have replaced the typical weekly phone call to their children with daily text messages, emails and even cyber-stalking on social media forums. Unfortunately, their actions do not allow their children the freedom to take risks and make important decisions on their own, which restricts their children’s ability to grow and become productive adults.
If we want to avoid turning the next generation into a bunch of depressed, young adults who never move out of their parent’s homes, we need to start letting go. Here are a few suggestions that may help:
DO let your children know you are available when they need you
DON’T text, email or call them every day
DO set a budget for financial support per semester
DON’T give them money every time they ask for it – stick to the budget!
DO expect to see their transcript each semester, especially if you’re paying the bill
DON’T call the college or their professors to inquire about grades
DO invite them home for holidays and breaks
DON’T get upset when they opt to spend time with new friends instead
DO expect them to make mistakes
DON’T expect perfection
It’s important to remember that at some point, we won’t be there to catch our children when they fall, so they’ll need to know how to handle difficult situations and problems on their own. I know it’s not easy to think of our children as adults, especially when we may still be footing the bill, but college is the perfect time to give them a gentle nudge and let them fly.