In an article published by the Brookings Institute, Richard Reeves wrote about the fact that Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton became a father on Christmas Eve 2015.

So what’s the big deal, you ask? Cam is single. He and his girlfriend, along with many others, didn’t see the importance of tying the knot before having a child.

Before you stop reading in disgust and think this is just old-fashioned rhetoric, please take a deep breath and try to read all the way to the end.

There is no question marriage is on the decline. Some believe it really doesn’t matter anymore. However, some compelling findings indicate it might matter more than you think – especially when it comes to a child’s well-being.

Wendy Manning, director of the Center for Family and Demographic Research at Bowling Green State University, says family instability is the consistent and negative implication for child health in both cohabiting and married-parent families.

Moreover, a study on child well-being and family structure by the Centers for Disease Control in 2010 shows that children growing up in homes with their two married parents did better in every category.

Children ages 12-17 living with cohabiting parents instead of married parents are:

  • Six times more likely to exhibit emotional and behavioral problems;

  • 122 percent more likely to be expelled from school; and

  • 90 percent more likely to have a lower GPA.

Additional studies indicate that children born to cohabiting couples are much more likely to see their parents break up. In fact, two-thirds will split up before their child is 12, most splitting up before their child is five. Compare that to only one-quarter of married parents who split up. Cohabiting relationships seem to be more fragile than married relationships.

Economic indicators show that 21 percent of children with cohabiting parents live below the poverty line. Only one in 10 children with married parents lives in poverty.

Statistics also show that as of early 2016, half of all children born to women under 30 were born out of wedlock.

Pew Research and other studies find that the majority of Americans would like to marry someday. So why are so many young people choosing cohabitation over marriage? What explains the increase in women under 30 choosing to have children outside of marriage? Well, it’s complicated.

For starters, many young people don’t want the kind of marriage their parents had, nor are they confident that they can actually do marriage well. Others say there are no marriageable men or women. Still others see no benefit in a “formal” arrangement for themselves and for their children.

There is plenty of research indicating that healthy marriage positively impacts children and society. There is also evidence that, in spite of people growing up in homes where they witnessed unhealthy marriages, experienced divorce and perhaps had other adverse childhood experiences, it’s possible to heal from the past and go on to have healthy relationships and even healthy marriage.

But the research is clear. The social, economic, health and emotional benefits of marriage extend to everyone, but are especially crucial for children.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Paul Coughlin’s passion to prevent bullying comes from his own bullying experience while in elementary school. He understands how a campaign of cruelty can damage a person’s emotional and psychological well-being, not just in childhood, but often for life.

This knowledge, along with his passion, led him to start an anti-bullying effort called The Protectors, whose primary focus is on the potential strength, heroic desire and rescuing capacity of bystanders. Studies show that bystanders possess the most potential to transform an environment of bullying into one of character, freedom and justice. One study revealed that if only one bystander, whether popular or not, uses his or her assertive but nonviolent words in defense of a target, the incident of bullying can end 58 percent of the time within six to eight seconds.

How prevalent is bullying in schools?

  • One out of every four students report being victims of bullying during the school year. (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2015)

  • Of children who are bullied, 64 percent did not report it. (Petrosino, Guckenburg, DeVoe, and Hanson, 2010)

  • School-based bullying prevention programs decrease bullying by up to 25 percent. (McCallion and Feder, 2013)

  • The reasons for being bullied reported most often by students were looks (55 percent), body shape (37 percent) and race (16 percent). (Davis and Nixon, 2010)

According to Coughlin, an expert witness regarding bullying and the law, bullying is not about conflict and miscommunication. It is about standing in contempt of another human being.

“It is a myth that the bully has anger management problems,” says Coughlin. “Bullies are highly predatory people. Bullies tend to come from homes with coercive parenting styles where parents express disdain and contempt of people who are different from them. Young people learn through modeling, this is how you treat people.”

What can you do?

  • Speak Up. If someone is bullying you, tell them to stop.

  • Bystanders are the best front line of defense. Stand up for the victim when you see bullying happen. Phrases such as, “Stop it, that’s wrong,” “Let’s do something else,” “I am going to report you” are powerful and can stop the bullying.

  • Schools can adopt anonymous reporting. One of the top five apps changing the world for good, as reported by CNN, is an anonymous reporting app called STOPit.

  • Take the incident seriously. Act sooner rather than later.

  • Don’t look the other way. When you know something is happening, report it.

“What’s really going to change bullying is when we change parenting,” Coughlin says. “As parents, we need to expect our kids to help someone in need. It needs to be part of your family mission and purpose. I have actually had this conversation with all three of my kids. I expect you to do something life-affirming. We don’t stand by and watch someone’s psychological flesh get seared from their body and do nothing.

“Research actually shows that when we see someone being targeted and you have the power to act yet you do nothing, our capacity for courage, sympathy and empathy decrease. We become small-souled. If we want strong kids, this is a pivotal moment. This is a tremendous opportunity for character development.”

Although it is not possible to prevent bullying altogether, there is no excuse for allowing it to continue if you know it is going on. Speaking up for yourself or another victim can make a huge difference both now and in the future.

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What exactly does it take for a child to succeed in life? Is it good grades? High test scores? Tenacity?

According to Paul Tough, author of How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character and Whatever it Takes, adults focus on high test scores, pre-admission to preschool and SAT scores as child-success indicators.

Based on research, however, Tough says we focus too much on these areas. He believes that the most important qualities have more to do with character. These skills include perseverance, curiosity, conscientiousness, optimism and self-control.

Tough and his wife became parents while he was writing his book. Surprisingly, the research actually made him a more relaxed parent. When his son was born, Tough was very much caught up in the idea of childhood as a race – the faster a child develops skills and the better he does on tests, the better he’ll do in life.

These days, the author is much less concerned about his son’s reading and counting ability. While he certainly believes those things are important, he’s more concerned about his character. He wants his son to be able to recover from disappointments, calm himself down, keep working at a puzzle even when it’s frustrating and be good at sharing. He also wants his son to feel loved and confident, and have a full sense of belonging. Most importantly, Tough wants his son to be able to handle failure.

It’s hard for us parents to let our children fail. Why is that? Because everything in us wants to shield them from trouble. But Tough and others are now discovering that we may actually harm our children when we try to protect them. By not allowing them to learn to manage adversity or to cope with failure, we produce kids who have real problems when they grow up. Overcoming adversity produces character. And character, even more than IQ, leads to real and lasting success.

According to Tough, scientists realize that early adversity in a child’s life affects the conditions of their lives.
It can also alter the physical development of their brains. This knowledge is being used nationwide to help children overcome constraints.

Regardless of socioeconomic status, Tough contends that children with the proper support in the most painful circumstances can still achieve amazing things. But many children do not grow up with that right support. For example, there may be two parents in the home who are so bent on their child’s success that they never let him experience failure. Or at the completely opposite end of the spectrum, there’s no support to help the child get back up when he fails.

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There are plenty of different perspectives about the best way to raise children. Some believe hovering helps children get ahead. Others think less supervision encourages children to figure things out for themselves. Some believe extracurricular activities are vital. Others – not so much.

The list could continue, but safety and access to enriching environments are major issues.

A Pew Research Center survey of 1,807 U.S. parents with children younger than 18 finds huge differences in parenting based on income. Financial instability can limit lower-income children’s access to a safe environment. It also affects the availability of enrichment activities that affluent parents may take for granted. Here are the facts.

  • Higher-income parents are nearly twice as likely to rate their neighborhood as an “excellent” or “very good” place to raise kids.

  • One-third of parents with annual family incomes less than $30,000 say that their neighborhood is only a “fair” or “poor” place to raise kids.

  • Lower-income parents are more likely to have concerns about their children being victims of violence. At least half of those with family incomes less than $30,000 worry that their kids might be kidnapped or get physically attacked.

  • About half of lower-income parents worry their children might be shot at some point, more than double the share among higher-income parents.

The survey also showed that:

  • Lower-income parents of school-age children face more challenges finding affordable, high-quality after-school activities and programs than higher-income parents.

  • About half families who make less than $30,000 annually say these programs are hard to find in their community, compared with 29 percent of those with incomes of $75,000 or higher.

  • Far more children of higher-income parents engage in sports or organizations such as Scouts or take lessons in music, dance or art.

  • 84 percent of high-income parents say their children participated in sports in the 12 months before the survey, compared to 59 percent among lower-income parents.

Concerns about teen pregnancy and legal trouble are also more prevalent among lower-income parents.

  • Half of lower-income parents worry that their child or one of their children will get pregnant or get a girl pregnant as a teen, compared with 43 percent of higher-income parents.

  • By 2-to-1 margin, more lower-income say they worry that their children will get in legal trouble at some point.

Regardless of income, at least half of all parents worry that their children might be bullied or struggle with anxiety or depression someday. For those with annual family incomes of $75,000 or higher, these concerns trump all others tested in the survey.

Researchers believe the dramatic changes in family living arrangements have contributed to the growing share of children living at the economic margins. In 2014, 62 percent of children younger than 18 lived with two married parents – a historic low, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. census data. The share of U.S. kids living with only one parent stood at 26 percent in 2014. Also, households with two unmarried parents have risen steadily in recent years.

These patterns differ sharply across racial and ethnic groups.

  • Large majorities of white (72 percent) and Asian-American (82 percent) children live with two married parents, as do 55 percent of Hispanic children.

  • Only 31 percent of black children have two married parents, while more than half (54 percent) live in a single-parent household.

The economic outcomes for these types of families vary dramatically.

  • In 2014, 31 percent of children in single-parent households lived below the poverty line, as did 21 percent of children living with unmarried parents.

  • Only 1 in 10 children living with two married parents were in this circumstance. In fact, more than half (57 percent) of married-parent households had incomes at least 200 percent above the poverty line.

  • Just 21 percent of those in single-parent households had incomes at least 200 percent above the poverty line.

There are clearly many variables that promote the safety and well-being of children. The harder question is: How can we improve the quality of life for all children?

In Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Veruca Salt is the bratty little girl who tells her daddy she wants a goose that lays the golden eggs. Her father immediately turns to Willy Wonka and asks, “How much for the goose?”

Wonka tells him they are not for sale. Veruca says she wants one immediately, makes more demands of her father and basically throws a temper tantrum. Although her father seems embarrassed by his daughter’s behavior, he allows it to continue.

“Parents who did not grow up with a lot themselves often desire to give their children what they did not have with the intention of helping them to have a better life,” says psychologist Susan Hickman.

Perhaps that was the case with Veruca. Most people cringe at her behavior. Unfortunately, giving children a lot without earning it can lead to ingratitude and a sense of entitlement.

“Entitlement is about excess,” Hickman says. “It is like a cancer on your personality. In the formative years, if children don’t learn the correlation between effort, earning and then receiving, the effect of this multiplies as they get into their teen years and then into young adulthood. It is hard to wash out the sense of entitlement.”

Hickman believes it is a mistake for parents to lead their child to believe he/she is the center of the universe. This mistake is often unintentional and is based on sacrificial love for their children.

“It is true that parents need to make sure their child’s basic needs are met for food, clothing and shelter,” Hickman says. But there must be a give-and-take between parents and the children. In other words, it isn’t all about the kids.

Giving your children everything they want, allowing them to do all they want to do and/or telling them they excel at all they attempt is not necessarily helpful in the long run.

There are, however, some strategies to help you avoid raising an entitled child.

  • Avoid excess. Excess leads to unrealistic expectations.

  • Stick with the basics. A phone that works is adequate. If they want something nicer, let them earn it. People tend to appreciate what they earn.

  • Hardship builds character. Instead of rescuing your children from difficulty or shielding them from natural consequences, hold them accountable. Learning lessons during hard times is unparalleled compared to easy times.

  • Encourage good citizenship at home and in the community. Doing chores and helping others without pay is part of being a good family member. Teach your children that, as a member of society, the rules apply to them.

  • Don’t reward bad behavior. If your child learns that you will ultimately give in to their persistence, this will always be their default behavior. Avoid the power struggle that often leads you to give in by giving your answer and walking away.

Utilizing these strategies when your children are young will prevent a lot of drama later in life. If you have not employed these strategies with your teens, there is still time. Change is possible, but it won’t be pretty.

A parent’s job is not to be their child’s best friend. The most loving thing parents can do is to make changes that will adequately prepare them for adulthood, even if they don’t like them.

Acknowledge that change will probably be difficult, but that you love them too much to continue harmful behavior. And be sure to surround yourself with people who will support and encourage you through this process.

Parents are a child’s first teacher. From infancy onward, children learn how to navigate life’s journey from watching their parents. The parent’s job is to lead and to cast a vision for a sense of the family’s greater purpose.

“I remember a number of years ago, having a conversation with a young man. He said to me, ‘When I have kids, I’m going to be their best friend.’ I thought to myself, ‘I hope that works out for you,’” says leadership expert, Dr. Mark Mendenhall. “It has been said that where there is no vision people perish. It isn’t so much about being your child’s best friend as it is about leading them to develop and become better human beings.”

But leading is difficult when people, regardless of age, don’t have a larger sense of moving toward a purpose.

“Having a vision for your family is important,” Mendenhall says. “It is the parent’s role to decide who we are as a family. At home, kids can go to school and parents can go to work. If there is no big, hairy, audacious goal that everybody knows they are aiming for, people tend to just go through the motions. Everybody needs to be able to answer the question: What are we as a family all in on?”

Years ago, Mendenhall purchased a new SUV. He told his children to be careful getting in and out of the cars in the garage so they did not damage the SUV. One morning he was in the family van, preparing to take his daughter to school. She came bouncing out the door and he thought to himself, “She isn’t going to remember to be careful.” She opened the passenger door, dinged the SUV and got in the van.

“I was furious and lit into her,” Mendenhall says. “In a heartbeat I watched her face go from bubbly and happy to sad and sniffling. I don’t think we said a word the entire way to school. On the way home I thought, ‘What just happened?’ I was thinking the piece of metal was more important to me than the best way to discipline or coach my daughter.

“It reminded me of Martin Buber’s concept of ‘I-Thou’ and ‘I-It.’ At any moment in time, as a leader or a parent, I can engage my child from the ‘I-Thou’ perspective – recognizing them as a human being with feelings, thoughts, weaknesses, strengths and ideas. Or, I can look at my child as an ‘It’ like a toaster – a thing, an object, something I want something from.”

Mendenhall later apologized for the way he treated his daughter, which is another characteristic of a strong leader. When you make a mistake in judgment, a sincere apology is powerful. Children know you aren’t perfect, and an apology can make the parent-child relationship stronger.

Studies indicate that setting aside 30 minutes to an hour each week for a family meeting can be beneficial. This is sacred time with no technology where the family does a fun activity together or confirms the weekly schedule.

“Family meetings were of great benefit to our family,” Mendenhall says. “It was hard, especially as the kids got older, because everybody wanted more of their time. Just being together, even if it doesn’t go well every week, is huge for keeping the family connected.”

Mendenhall also believes using participative leadership is especially helpful for parents.

“When our kids were younger, we realized they were watching too much television,” Mendenhall says. “We brought them all together and said, ‘There is way too much television watching going on. We want to try and solve this problem as a family and aren’t saying no television. But, we just need to figure out how to manage this better.’

“Our daughter was drawing while we were talking. At some point, she piped up and said, ‘We could make a sign that says ‘No More TV’ and put it over the television when it’s time for the television to go off.’”

“After some discussion, everybody agreed that could work. So, she made a big poster to hang from the television. On the back of it, one of our sons (who is now an attorney) drew up a contract us all to sign.”

The ultimate goal of parenting is to launch adults into the world with a skill set that will help them both personally and professionally. It all starts with parents leading out in the home.

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For many high school students, the senior prom is one of the highlights of their school career. They’re ready to celebrate 13 years of hard work during this rite of passage before the next phase of life.

But even though the prom’s focus is on the teens, this season can be tricky for parents, too. Even they experience the peer pressure. Plenty of parents know the realities of dealing with idea of being the “cool” parents.

“The whole notion of being the cool parent who has the after-prom party, takes the car keys and allows alcohol in order to keep their teen and the rest of the group ‘safe’ is a flawed thought process,” says Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Rob Philyaw. “What we really need is for parents to be the parent.”

According to Tennessee law, there is no time when a child can legally drink before age 21. If an 18- or 19-year-old is caught holding a beer without even having a sip, he or she can still be arrested for underage possession. And unfortunately, the mugshot on Right to Know or Google won’t go away unless all charges are dropped, which could certainly impact future job opportunities. 

A 16- or 17-year-old caught with alcohol at a house party or behind the wheel automatically loses their driver’s license. Then, they must go through an expensive, long, arduous process to regain their driving privileges.

If you have a teen headed to the prom, there are some things you can do to help them have a great time.

  • Make sure they have a plan for the evening. Your teen should give you a complete rundown for the evening, including who they will be with and where they will go before and after the prom. Set expectations for checking in. Some parents want to hear from their teen whenever they move to a different location; others expect their teen to check in periodically throughout the evening.

  • Discuss curfew. Work together to determine a fair curfew. Consider your teen’s trustworthiness, maturity level and ability to be responsible.

  • Be specific about your safety concerns. Explain why prom night makes it more difficult to make safe and smart decisions. Don’t leave anything to their imagination; discuss the dangers surrounding drinking, drugs, driving under the influence and sex. Know who will be driving. If your teen rents a limo with friends, check out the limo company’s rules about alcohol.

  • Be sure you have information about the after-party. Don’t assume that your home rules also apply at the after-party location. Some parents believe it’s OK to serve alcohol to underage teens as long as the keys are checked at the door. But parents who choose to have a party at their house where minors are drinking alcohol need to consider the consequences. Contributing to the delinquency of a minor carries a sentence of up to 11 months and 29 days in the Hamilton County jail or probation for that amount of time. These consequences are minor compared to dealing with the loss of a life caused by teenage drinking.

  • Give your teen an unconditional offer for assistance. Make sure your teen knows that you want to be their first call for help. Some parents and teens have an agreed-upon code to use in case the teen feels uncomfortable with her date or does not want to go along with an unsafe plan. Be clear that you are willing to pick them up at any time and will save the lecture for later.

  • Most importantly, your teen needs to know you love him/her. One of the best ways to show love is to set limits. Help them understand that limits are there to make sure prom plans are safe.

“The stakes for today’s teens are higher in some respects,” Philyaw says. “Being crazy in 1984 and being crazy now are two very different scenarios.

“It is true: You only live once. We need to help our teens make wise decisions that will not haunt them as they launch into the next stage of life.”

Like most families, the Whittaker family kept a pretty fast pace with three active children. Several years ago, an experience caused them to press the pause button.

“We were in the car with our three children when Beyonce’s Single Ladies came on the radio,” said Carlos Whittaker, author of Moment Maker. “Our children started singing it and I started videoing the moment. When I realized our son was singing it, I told him, ‘You aren’t a single lady,’ at which point he bursts into tears. I apologized. I sent it to my mom because I thought it was cute and posted it on Facebook.”

Unexpectedly, the video went viral, getting millions of views. The family appeared on Good Morning America, The Today Show and The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and also received the People’s Choice Viral Video of the Year award.

When things calmed down a bit, Whittaker asked his wife why she thought the video was so popular. She said, “It is because you were authentic and showed a mistake. Most parents who make their kid cry would not post it on Facebook for the world to see.”

That was the catalyst for change in the Whittaker household.

“That conversation with my wife made me realize you can live your life or your life can live you,” Whittaker said. “These two statements sound similar, but they are oceans apart.

“Not too long ago, the average pace a human traveled was between three and 15 mph. Now we have rocket ships. Maybe we weren’t created to move this fast. Most of us are living life so fast we forget that what is happening right this second is important. I came to the conclusion that, instead of going with the flow, we would make the flow go with us. Instead of rushing through everything, I started trying to pause to perceive.”

Whittaker’s book, Moment Maker, is about making the most of life’s moments. The book identifies three types of moments: created, received and rescued. None of them have to be expensive or epic, just purposeful.

“A couple of years ago I created a moment with my daughter when I took her on a daddy/daughter date to Starbucks,” Whittaker said. “On the cup where they usually write your name and the type of drink you ordered, I had her write three words that described my daughter. When we sat down my daughter noticed the words and asked me what they meant, at which point I shared with her about the words. She still talks about that coffee date. ”

Received moments are those moments where pausing is the secret.

“We took our daughters to see Justin Bieber,” Whittaker said. “Right before he came onstage, one of our daughters was weeping. I looked to my wife to decipher what was going on. She said everything was fine.

“Driving home from the concert, I asked my daughter why she had been crying. She said, ‘Because I love him so much.’ My first inclination was to look at her and say, ‘You don’t love him; you don’t know the first thing about love.’ But I paused for a moment and then I said, ‘The tears that stream down your face because you love Justin Bieber…I want to tell you how the tears stream down my face when I see you at your best because I love you so much.’ The conversation shifted from why her love was right instead of why it was wrong.”

Rescued moments are the moments in which life happens. In order to rescue, one must open heart and hands. Without risk there is no rescue.

Whittaker shared about sitting next to a guy on a flight to Atlanta. Despite Whittaker’s attempts at friendly conversation, the man had nothing to say. Whittaker assumed he was just rude.

Shortly before landing, the pilot informed passengers that winds were blowing at 40 mph. In order to land they needed to be below 40 mph, but he said he was going to give it a shot. At that moment, Whittaker saw that the man was gripping the seat in front of him, tears were streaming down his face and he was shaking.

“I realized the man was not rude. He was scared. I fought it for about five minutes, but then I made the decision to stick my hand out barely open. Within a second, he was gripping my hand,” Whittaker said. “We landed and he was still holding my hand. We taxied to the gate and he was still holding my hand. When we got to the gate I let go. Without saying a word, he got up and exited the plane.”

How can we intentionally leave a legacy if we are moving so fast we miss the moments? We each write a story as we walk through our lives. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or be super-creative. The smallest of things can make a huge difference in the moment for you and your family.

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Perhaps you’ve heard of Brock Allen Turner. He’s the Stanford University student who was found guilty of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman who had been at an on-campus party in January 2015.

The story initially made the news when two graduate students riding their bikes across campus witnessed the scene unfolding and came to the woman’s aid. The two called police and held Turner at the scene until they arrived.

While the jury found Turner guilty on all counts, the judge only sentenced him to six months in jail, stating, “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him. I think he will not be a danger to others.”

At Turner’s sentencing, the victim read him a letter describing the assault’s impact on her life. If you have not read this letter, it is worth your time to do so. It can be found here.

Adding to the troubling aspect of the crime, Turner has confessed that he was drunk. He has stated that he wants to visit college campuses to talk about the dangers of alcohol and sexual promiscuity, but what he does not want to talk about is sexual assault. In fact, in some instances, Turner is being portrayed as the victim.

How can that be? When did it become acceptable behavior to take advantage of someone who is drunk? When did it become okay not to be accountable and responsible for your actions?

Turner’s father wrote a letter to the judge, requesting leniency for his son, explaining that “his son’s life has been deeply altered forever by the events of January 17th and 18th…now he barely consumes any food and eats only to exist. These verdicts have broken and shattered him and our family in so many ways. His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve. That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20-plus years of life.”

When their children become teenagers, parents frequently tell them, “You only live once, enjoy it because it won’t ever be this way again.” What parents sometimes neglect to say is “What you do or do not do in middle school, high school and beyond can impact you for the rest of your life.”

Turner is not the victim in this situation. Two lives and two families are forever changed because of his behavior.

What happened is awful on all counts. The problem in some situations today is that many people believe they shouldn’t have to be penalized for their actions.

How can you help your child make good choices?

  • Teach teens what it means to be respectful of others.

  • Make sure they understand the definition of sexual assault. Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.

  • Hold your child accountable for their behavior, even at an early age. They will be held accountable in the real world.

  • Your teen needs to know that “Everybody else is doing it” does not justify wrong behavior.

It is painful to watch young people struggle to find their way. While they are in your home, diligently teach them how to live responsibly away from your care. Young people have a mind of their own and they will make mistakes. A parent’s job is to walk with them, but not shield them from the consequences.

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Do you remember your young adult years? You know, the times when you ate Ramen noodles and searched for spare change beneath the couch cushions and between the car seats because you were a starving student or just starting a new job.

There is nothing like knowing you are just barely making it – but still surviving – on your own. Looking back, you may realize those hard years helped you appreciate what you now have.

The landscape looks vastly different than it did twenty years ago.

According to a 2016 Pew Research Center report, more 18- to 34-year-olds are living with their parents. Researchers speculate this is fueled in large part by the number of people choosing to put off marriage.

If you think back to your teenage years, most teens couldn’t wait to be out on their own. Even if they didn’t have a job, they were determined to prove they could make it independently. So why are so many young adults choosing to live at home these days?

In The Many Reasons More Young Adults Are Living with their Parents, Naomi Schaefer Riley, a weekly columnist for the New York Post whose writing leans toward higher education, religion, philanthropy and culture, raises this question: Are parents doing enough to equip their children to leave the nest?

She surmises that young Americans may be living in their parent’s basement in part because they don’t have the economic or social tools to set out on their own. In a desire to protect and love their children and to shield them from experiencing potential problems in the world, parents may be unintentionally creating more obstacles for them.

This raises some important questions for parents to consider as they prepare their children to leave the nest.

  • Are you teaching your teens how to develop networks or do you encourage them to rely solely on your networks? Guiding them through the process of building their own network is a powerful step toward independence.

  • Do you allow your child to fail and learn from their mistakes?  Or, do you take care of the consequences so they don’t have to experience the pain? Figuring out how to move forward in spite of failure builds confidence.

  • Does your teen understand the definition of and the value of a good work ethic?  Employers constantly lament many young people’s understanding of punctuality or being respectful and motivated to do a good job.

  • Have you encouraged your teen to find a job without doing it for them?  It’s important to teach your teen how to look someone in the eye and put their cellphone away. Help them learn how to dress appropriately and what questions an interviewer may ask. These things are far more helpful for your teen in the long run than if you pick up the phone and make a call for them.

Except for special circumstances such as disability, emergencies or providing care to parents, is allowing adult children to live at home really the best thing for them? Part of launching into adulthood is learning how to navigate challenges and celebrate accomplishments. As hard as it may be, encourage them to learn the meaning of perseverance, relentless pursuit and independence.

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