Sixty percent of students take five to six years to complete college (or don’t graduate at all). A big reason is that they are not emotionally equipped to be successful. It takes more than good grades to be prepared for college. It takes resilience, persistence and knowing how to deal with mistakes and disappointment.
As a middle school teacher, I received many phone calls from parents about missing work. "Why didn't you call me?" they asked. "I would have made sure it was done." I wanted to say, "You're not in sixth grade again. This is your kid's problem, not yours!" When did this become a parent's responsibility? When the parent cares more about the work than the student, something is out of balance. This was the perfect example of a time to back off and let a child experience some discomfort, and learn from the experience.
Would you agree that our job as parents is to prepare our children for life? Unfortunately, a great deal of focus is on the academic preparation for college... and to a lesser extent on the attitudes and skills that will get them through the challenges. Preparation for life involves letting them, encouraging them, pushing them, to experience life. So in order for them to be successful in high school, college and beyond, we parents have to prepare them for more than SATs and GPAs.
We are experiential learners: this means that most of us learn best by doing. And it has more meaning for us when we do something ourselves. This also means that we learn more by experiencing the consequences of our actions and it goes double for our kids. Experience, reflect, learn, apply. Repeat.
So how do you prepare them... or help them prepare themselves? This is one of the most difficult things parents have to do. You have to let go. What does that look like?
1) Resist the impulse to step in and smooth the way for them, or to take care of their problems.
2) Recognize why you want to step in. I know, you don't want them to be hurt or disappointed. Maybe you're afraid of how it will look if you don't have 'the perfect' child. Or perhaps you don't want to risk losing their love. But sometimes your children will have to experience sadness and disappointment in order to become resilient and to see just what they're made of. They won't know until they struggle and fix their own mess.
3) Understand when your help is, or isn't necessary. This is the big one. If it's not a matter of health or safety, odds are you should stay in the background and let your child figure it out.
Are you ready to let them go? They are capable of accomplishing, and coping with, so much more than you may give them credit for.
Ready, set... let them go!
Fern Weis is a Parent Coach and Family Recovery Life Coach. She works with parents of teens and young adults who are going through difficult situations, from the homework wars to addiction recovery, and all points in between. Fern helps parents release guilt, end enabling, and confidently prepare their children to thrive and be successful through life's challenges. FernWeis.com | 201-747-9642