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The college transition is hard on both parents and kids. When college students return home for breaks after spending 10 months basically without a curfew, not having to answer to anybody about their comings and goings, and no chores, the homecoming has the potential to be a bit rocky, especially for freshmen.

“We weren’t exactly sure what to expect when our daughter came home from her freshman year,” says Kim Clausen. “She was used to being on her own. When I asked where she was going and when she would be back, I got looks like, ‘Why do you need to know that?’ We had to re-acclimate to her being home and she had to get used to being with us. We all survived, but it took some adjustment on everybody’s part. Things were definitely different.”

Planning Ahead for Adjustments Can Help

Like so many families, the Clausens had settled into a new routine with their two remaining teens at home. Excited about their daughter’s return, they honestly didn’t think a lot about making adjustments as they brought her back into the fold.

“If we had it to do over again, we would have a conversation prior to her returning home about expectations, schedules and the like,” Clausen says. “When she is away she can do what she wants, but when we are trying to juggle work, the schedules of our other two teens and life in general, we need everybody to be on the same page.”

Clara Sale-Davis also found herself in the same position as the Clausen family. Before her daughter made the college transition, she thought about how to make the move easier.

“I remember when I went home for the summer,” says Sale-Davis. “I thought I was going to be running around doing whatever I wanted. Mom would wash my clothes and have dinner ready. I quickly found out I was delusional. While I am honored that my daughter wants to come home for the summer, I wanted to be proactive with her so she would know what to expect.”

Sale-Davis let her daughter know that while they wanted home to be a safe haven, it would not be a resort. She encouraged her daughter to find a job and told her that chores would be awaiting her. She also discussed what seemed reasonable for everyone when it comes to staying out late with friends.

“I thought it would be better to have the conversation ahead of time,” Sale-Davis says. “We talked over the phone and I could hear her eyes rolling. It isn’t that I don’t trust her. We just don’t need to worry unnecessarily.”

Here are some suggestions for making it a pleasant break for everyone.

  • Establish expectations. Know your priorities, communicate them clearly and discuss what is and is not negotiable. Be clear about what will happen if they do not adhere to your expectations.
  • Don’t expect your young adult to have the same mindset they had when they left for college. They have been making decisions for themselves, so encourage them to continue to do so while respecting the house rules.
  • Choose your battles carefully. If you are encouraging them to make their own decisions, realize that they may not make the same decisions you would make for them.
  • Take this time to help your college student understand what it will be like when they are finally out on their own, paying rent, bills and doing their own laundry.

The college transition to home can be interesting, to say the least. While young adults are in the process of becoming more independent, they still rely on their parents in many ways – including providing a roof over their head during the breaks – not to mention paying college tuition.

Image from Unsplash.com

Parenting to encourage your child’s independence is not easy. I remember the day well. I went to pick up our daughter from school. She got in the car with a smirk on her face and blurted out, “Why did you let me fail my tree project?” I asked her exactly how I let her fail her project. “You didn’t help me,” she replied. However, I distinctly remember asking her if she needed any help when she brought the assignment home, and she said no. She then told me I needed to go talk with her teacher about it and fix it.

I reminded her that I did not have a problem with the teacher, but I mentioned that if she would like to talk with the teacher, I would be happy to stand in the hallway. I don’t think she was super happy about my response, but we headed up to the teacher’s room and she did all the talking.

Fast forward to today. My daughter still talks about this experience, not because she is still angry at me, but because she learned some important things that day: how to talk with an authority figure about a difficult situation, what it means to problem-solve, and that while her parents are supportive, they will not snowplow the road of life for her. Don’t think for one minute that there wasn’t a lot of drama around that moment or that we got it right all the time as parents, because we didn’t. 

One thing is for sure though: teaching your child independence is a powerful gift. When parents take the lead in situations such as this, they can rob their children of a potential transformational experience.

Karen Fancher, a college professor, lamented in a blog post about the number of students who show up on campus unprepared to navigate life on their own. 

“We are now observing a different parenting style: ‘Lawnmower Parents,’” says Fancher. “These are the parents who rush ahead to intervene, saving the child from any potential inconvenience, problem or discomfort… this kind of parental behavior can have long-lasting, detrimental effects on your child.”

According to Fancher, this parenting style can lead to children being poorly equipped to deal with routine growing and learning experiences, along with a lack of personal motivation or drive since they only know how to follow the path the “Lawnmower Parent” has already prepared. Perhaps the most potentially-devastating outcome occurs because the “Lawnmower Parent” repeatedly demonstrates their lack of trust in their child’s ability to accomplish things on their own. As a result, their child will lack independence and may feel they aren’t good enough to do things for themselves. If that sounds really scary to you in terms of preparing your child for the real world, there are ways you can intentionally avoid being a “Lawnmower Parent.”

For example, let your children speak for themselves. When you go out to eat, let them order. Teach them to ask for directions. When they ask to do something after school with a friend, let them orchestrate the details instead of doing it for them.

As your child enters middle and high school, there are opportunities for them to do even more for themselves. When it comes to dealing with things at school, resist the urge to take matters into your own hands. Process with them, but let them handle it as much as possible. When drama occurs in friendships, ask them how they think they should handle the situation instead of jumping in with the answers.

In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey makes two powerful statements worth remembering when it comes to raising children. First, begin with the end in mind, as in, don’t lose sight of your goal to raise confident adults who know how to function independently of their parents. Secondly, seek to understand before understood. Be curious. Ask your child to tell you more. Many teens complain that their parents never listen, but seeking to understand requires us to listen. 

As parents, we may or may not have the answers our kids need. And it’s not always easy to step back and let them do things on their own. It may even be messy. Although we may fear that they will fail or get hurt in the process, remember that many people learn best from their mistakes and gain confidence through independence. And sometimes, they just need to figure things out for themselves.

Getting your kids ready to launch is not easy. I remember it like it was yesterday. She bopped up to the front door of her new school in pigtails, all ready for her first day of kindergarten. After giving her a big hug, I walked back to the car with leaky eyes, feeling all the feels.

I was excited for our daughter’s new adventure, but I knew the page had turned and things would be different from that point forward. Beyond knowing numbers, letters and how to spell an 11-letter last name, I hoped we had given her a fierce sense of adventure and thirst for learning that would serve her well through the years.

Fast forward to 2010. There I was again, except this time the drop-off was different. She was actually moving into a dorm and we were driving home. Wasn’t this the goal, to work ourselves out of a job? I mean, this is what we’d been preparing her for throughout her life, right? As we drove away, my eyes started leaking again. I thought about all we tried to instill in her from the time she entered kindergarten to high school graduation, in between eye rolls, heavy sighs and being “the only parents who… (you fill in the blank)” and I wondered what actually did sink in. Once again, I found myself praying we’d prepared her for the road ahead.

Whether your child is heading off to kindergarten or launching from the nest, letting go can be hard. Sometimes it can feel like a real identity crisis, especially since the focus has been on the children for so many years. Now it’s time to pull back a bit and let them gain their footing.

If this is a first for you, here are some things to help you navigate how to help your kids launch.

  • Remind yourself that one of the ultimate goals of parenting is launch. If you need a little motivation, just think about the alternative: a 30-year-old sitting on your couch, playing video games day and night.
  • Get busy. In the midst of perhaps a tinge of identity crisis, think about all of the things you wanted to do over the years, but never had the time or energy because you were focused on your children’s needs. The silence at home can initially be deafening, but finding something to do with the additional time on your hands can soften the blow of coming home to an empty house. It can also help you avoid second-guessing your parenting and whether or not you have given your child what it takes to be successful.
  • Connect with parents who are a bit beyond you in the parenting journey. Don’t look for perfect parents, though. Instead, look for the ones who haven’t been afraid to let their kids fly, fail and fly again. It’s encouraging to know parenting isn’t about perfection, but about being present and allowing your children to learn and grow into the person they are called to be.

Just last week my daughter reminded me that she’s 25 and she’s good.

I laughed on the outside, but on the inside, maybe not so much. Don’t get me wrong: I love that she is living her life and being responsible, but I think even when your kids are grown, you still look out for them and want the best for them. During a conversation with a dad a few weeks ago about adult children, he said, “Once a parent, always a parent.” That statement is definitely true, but how you engage is very different. Hopefully, your adult child doesn’t need you as much, but they’ll want to be around you because they enjoy your company.

Looking for more resources? Watch this episode of JulieB TV for an in-depth look on this topic!

Parents and teens can have a mind-boggling relationship. 

One minute they are yelling things like:

“I hate you!”

“Don’t speak to me.”

“Nobody else’s parents do that.”

The next minute you are holding their head while they are sick, they ask you to borrow the car or they want to snuggle up next to you on the couch. It’s enough to make your head spin and cause you to question, “Is this the same kid who said he never wanted to see me again minutes ago?”

Parenting teens is not for the faint of heart. When parents who are currently raising teens compare notes with those who have lived to tell about it, you might think there really is a universal playbook teens use to make parents question their sanity. At any given moment, you may even wish you could ground your teenager for life. BUT, that would defeat the whole purpose of adolescence.

Adolescence is when children learn the skills and strategies of adults and that takes time and patience. But honestly, the process can be painful for the whole family.

Consider these things:

  • Parenting experts say that one of the reasons adolescence is so challenging is that parents often don’t recognize the strongest needs of their teen.
  • Parents look into their teen’s world through adult eyes and needs. They tend to miss all of the change and internal conflict their teen is experiencing in continuing to have their needs for belonging, freedom, power and fun met.
  • Parents need to feel in control whereas their adolescent is competing for his freedom. 
  • Both parent and teen have well-developed strategies for getting their needs met. These differing needs and strategies often intensify to the point that the relationship between parent and child becomes strained.

During adolescence, kids needs you more than ever before. Adults should not assume that once teens begin to look like adults they will automatically start thinking like an adult, relating like mature adults and making responsible decisions.

If you are leading an adolescent into mature adulthood, here are a few things to consider:

  • Remember your own teenage struggles.
  • Don’t panic. It is important not to let your fears control you.
  • Don’t overreact. Most teens say they do not open up to their parents because they tend to overreact.
  • Make sure to handle things in a way that builds your teen up versus tearing them down.
  • Take time to enter your teen’s world – spend time with them, listen to their music, get to know their friends.
  • Provide direction according to their needs… not yours.
  • Understand that teens don’t want you to fix it for them. They want you to listen to them. A teen’s self-confidence is built through learning to problem solve and come up with reasonable solutions.
  • Separate the behavior from the teen. Love your teen, but don’t be afraid to deal with unacceptable behavior.
  • Develop a support network of parents who have been there, done that.
  • Remember, you and your spouse are on the same team.

Raising teenagers is a predictable challenge for most parents. Keep perspective and recognize you will survive. After all, your parents did.

Image from Unpslash.com

Joanie Sompayrac has taught college students for more than two decades. She began to notice a change in her students about 10 years ago, and she has a few things to say about raising decisive adults.

“I enjoy teaching and I love my students,” says Sompayrac. “The last 10 years have been really interesting as I have watched students move away from being independent thinkers not afraid to speak their mind. I used to ask questions in class and students would be eager to answer. Today they are terrified to be wrong.

“I have students in my class who are terrible at accounting. I ask them why they are majoring in it and they say, ‘Because my parents told me to,’ not because they are passionate about the subject. They have bought into the notion that their parents know best.”

Sompayrac isn’t alone. Colleges across the country are experiencing this same phenomenon. As a result, Julie Lythcott-Haims, former Stanford University dean of freshmen, began to research the surprising trend. You can read about in her book,How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success.

“Parents are applauding kids at every turn just for showing up versus when they accomplish something,” says Lythcott-Haims. “They are constructing play through play dates. When kids have been raised like this, it is not a surprise that, as young adults, they are still looking for their parents’ approval, direction and protection in college and the world of work.

“The students were becoming less independent as parents increased control over their children’s lives,” she says. “I noticed that too many students weren’t trying to get their parents off their back; they were relieved to have their parents do the hard work.”

While both believe that parents mean well in their attempts to help, neither Lythcott-Haims or Sompayrac believes this kind of parental engagement ultimately helps the students.

“When college students have no idea how to think for themselves, problem-solve and be critical thinkers, that is not a good thing,” Sompayrac contends. “When parents choose their child’s major, intervene in resolving roommate issues or contact a professor about a grade, they are depriving their child of the opportunity to figure it out for themselves. Yet these are the very experiences that help young people build confidence, make mistakes, experience consequences, pick themselves back up and keep going.”

So, how can you be helpful without being overbearing? Lythcott-Haims offers these tips:

  • Accept that it’s not about you, it’s about your kid.
  • Notice who your kid actually is, what they’re good at and what they love.
  • Explore diagnostic tools such as StrengthsFinder to help your kid discover what energizes them.
  • Express interest and be helpful.
  • Know when to push forward; know when to pull back.
  • Help them find mentors outside the home.
  • Prepare them for the hard work to come.
  • Don’t do too much for them.
  • Have your own purpose.

Perhaps the greatest way you can start raising decisive adults is to stop hovering, encourage independent thinking and help them fulfill their calling in life.

Looking for more resources? Watch this episode of JulieB TV for an in-depth look on this topic!

When state police called science writer David Dobbs to say that his teenage son had been driving 113 mph, he somehow kept from yelling, “What in the heck were you thinking?” Probably just like any other parent, he considered his son’s actions to be reckless. His son, however, refused to take ownership of that title. He said he chose a long, empty, dry stretch of highway on a beautiful day to drive his car that fast. 

After hearing many parents complain about not being able to get into their teen’s head to understand what makes them tick, Harvard-educated researcher Shaunti Feldhahn and her co-author Lisa Rice took on that challenge. With input from more than 1200 teens, Feldhahn and Rice discovered some interesting insights into teens’ lives. The results of their work are in the book, For Parents Only, Getting Inside the Head of Your Kid.

In general, the culture believes peer pressure pushes kids to rebel and behave in reckless ways without thinking of the consequences, teens don’t care what their parents think, they don’t want rules or discipline, parents don’t listen, and teens give in easily to negative attitudes. Feldhahn and Rice say those beliefs aren’t necessarily accurate, based on their findings.

What’s really happening is this: Our teens are experiencing the intoxicating nature of freedom and the fear of losing that freedom, and they want to figure out who they are as an individual. When they test their parents’ authority, they really want them to stand firm instead of giving in. Teens want to know their parents are making an effort to understand them even when they make mistakes. They tend to stop talking because they think their parents are poor listeners, and what seems like an attitude problem might actually be a sign of insecurity.

While the authors do not endorse bad behavior or make excuses for poor choices, they do believe that their newfound knowledge could help parent-child relationships.

Although many parents believe they lose a lot of influence and that peers become more influential in the teen years, Feldhahn and Rice found that freedom is most influential. One psychotherapist said, “Freedom is like cocaine to a teenager. It’s intoxicating. It’s addictive. And it’s often their biggest motivator”. Nearly 3 of 4 teens surveyed said they felt strongly motivated by freedom. Many said they couldn’t get enough of it. However, even though they want their freedom, teens said they understood that too much, too soon wasn’t good for them. 

When asked which they preferred, a parent who acted more like a friend or a parent who acted like a parent, 77 percent wanted the parent, not the friend. While teens may want their freedom, deep down they realize they need their parents to provide structure and security for them while they figure out the whole freedom thing. Additionally, knowing what freedoms are most important to your teen is essential.

Rice recalls when one of her teenage daughters called to say she had been involved in a really small accident and that everything was okay. She said her mom didn’t need to come and that she was going on to her friend’s house. Of course, Rice headed to the scene. Her daughter had been on her cell phone while driving, which was against the rules. The first thought was to take away the cell phone as a consequence, but the cell phone was a big part of her daughter’s freedom. 

After discussing what happened, the daughter asked to pay off the repair costs instead of her phone taken away.

This meant turning over almost all of her paycheck for four months. As a result, she learned a very important lesson and did not resent her parents for taking her cell phone or grounding her.

If you want to get inside your kid’s head, this insightful book offers very practical ways to engage your teen during their struggle to separate themselves from you as a parent, and ultimately become a productive, healthy adult.

Just say the word “adolescent” in front of parents and you will likely get varied responses. Responses range from relief from surviving those years to sheer panic from those who are approaching that developmental stage. Everyone wishes they had a survival guide. Well, several years ago, The Center for Adolescent Health at Johns Hopkins University pioneered a comprehensive resource for healthy adolescent development for parents called “The Teen Years Explained.” 

In order to write The Teen Years Explained: A Guide to Healthy Adolescent Development, the guide’s authors, Dr. Clea McNeely and Jayne Blanchard, needed to have their fingers on the current pulse of American teens.

After culling through hundreds of adolescent development and behavior studies, they came to some surprising conclusions.

“It was quite refreshing to find that in general most teenagers are developing in a very healthy way,” says McNeely. “There is no question that while the adolescent years are a time of excitement, they can also be very challenging.”

Though teens give off a lot of cues that parents are no longer relevant or necessary in their lives, McNeely encourages parents to completely ignore those.

“The two most important people in the lives of teens are their parents, whether they are present or absent,” McNeely says. “Parents must understand that their role in their teen’s life is as critical as it was when their child was a toddler. Teens want to know their parents’ values. They want to be educated by their parents, even on the toughest subjects. The parents’ big challenge is to creatively engage their teen while they learn how to function independently.”

One of the most important things you can do is understand adolescent brain development. 

“Our children are bio-chemically driven to establish independence,” McNeely states. “The problem is they are not skillful at it, nor are they ready. And they often don’t ask for independence correctly, which tends to make parents crazy.”

McNeely encourages parents to focus on life experiences that promote confidence and caring, and to build connection, competence and character. Additionally, parents need to nurture social and emotional development. 

“Expectations, curfew, family meals and household chores are still crucial regardless of what your adolescent thinks and says,” McNeely says. “The key to all of this is making it reasonable. Where there were certain non-negotiables with your toddler, there will be fewer with your teen. The goal is to teach them how to make good decisions versus making all the decisions for them. While you might have a set curfew for your 13-year-old, you might negotiate at age 16.”

Teens who tend to do well have parents who aren’t afraid to set boundaries and make the tough calls, even at the risk of hearing, “I hate you!”

“Life with a teen can be challenging. But I invite people of all ages to appreciate what a marvel it is to be an adolescent,” McNeely says. “At no other time in life, even in early childhood, do human beings develop so rapidly, in so many different ways.”

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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