Saturday, March 30, 2019

In the months leading up to me going to college, I really tested my parent's patience. I won't lie and say that I didn't feel it was warranted. Honestly, they both made my teen years way more challenging than they should have been, and I am one to spit fire back at conflict. When I graduated highschool and reached the age of majority, I was ready to get away from the worry about why I was at Waffle House with my friends until 2am, or why I lived at Starbucks writing away in the corner, or any other nonsense that really didn't have an effect on my life as an adult.

No, I am not saying I know how to be the perfect parent, but I do know what may help to boost your relationship with your young adult child (whether you see it to be dysfunctional or not).

From one college kid and his own parents, here is my advice for how to navigate these new years:

When your young adult calls you with a problem, ask them how they are going to solve it.
Do not be the person that is always readily available (or prying in) to solve every (or any problem, really), in your young adults life. This type of "helicopter parenting" creates unhealthy habits for conflict resolution once your young adult has greater responsibilities (think workforce, relationships, etc.). Ask guiding questions about the pros/cons of each of their solutions. Ask how their decision will change the outcome of the situation. Be reassuring. Say thinks like "I am confident you can figure this out" or "I am sorry this happened to you, but I know you will find the right solution."

Do not call the school administrators (or professors or anyone else in your young adult's life).
Unless you are calling about the tuition bill, do not call the school. The same goes for checking your young adults email (yes, apparently some parents do still actually do this). As for grades and GPA, it is legally the student's right for that information to be confidential and protected according to FERPA (even from mom and dad).

Do not be a frequent visitor or insist that they come home often.
It's critical that your young adult create their own life on their college campus and beyond. This is a life that does not and should not include mom and dad anymore. If you have both fallen into this unhealthy habit, cut it off now. You will see the results flourish, and your relationship will be stronger because of it.

Give your child space to find his/her place.
Some parents live vicariously through their children and their experiences. Others just pressure them with specific expectations. I've seen parents agonize over their children's college decision. STOP IT. Kids need to be able to be their own person, to make their own choices, and know that whatever they choose they will still have their parent's support. Please don't put pressure on your kids to go this way or that. Life is putting enough pressure on them already.

On the other hand, don't be one of those parents constantly concerned with what your young adult is posting on social media. They are being judged enough by the world, and social media is their own space. Yes, employers will pry into what can be found easily online, no doubt. Warn your young adult of this, but leave it at that. What they choose to share on their social media is their business now.

Encourage your kid to find a mentor outside the family.
Their problems are their problems, seriously. College and young adult transitions bring a host of stressors along. These challenges are not meant to be solved by parents. Instead, encourage your young adult to find a mentor they trust to help them navigate life. It will help them find their way without being bogged down with the opinions and belief systems they have been accustomed to since childhood.

Let them initiate the phone calls/texts, not you.
It is wonderful to know that mom and dad are always just a phone call away. However, that phone call away should not come in the form of texts and phone calls from them every day. This subconsciously weighs down the ability for your young adult to build their wings of independence and creates an extended umbilical cord into adult hood.

These new years are uncharted territory for you and your young adult. Always stand at the door with love and grace, but also know that this is a transition period that will make or break a successful adult life. Don't be a "helicopter parent" - they're just loud and knock your young adult to the ground while trying to stand.

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