Parenting for the Long Haul

April 26, 2019

I have one child already in college and another about to complete their senior year in high school. And the stress is high. A diligent student who has great grades, performed well on the SAT, has all sorts of varsity sports and amazing experiences like ‘Girls Who Code’ behind her and a terrific work ethic. And guess what? She hasn’t received an acceptance from one college that she actually wants to attend. And it makes no sense. And we are perplexed. And we are not alone. The system is broken. The complex and seemingly nonsensical college application process is letting our kids down. Thus, its no wonder that there are families out there who will do anything, yes anything, to ensure that their child has the best possible chance to receive an offer letter one day to the institution of their liking…one day being the operative word. The question is: at what cost to the family and most importantly to the child?

If you have ever watched the 1980’s movie‘Baby Boom’, with Diane Keaton, you might remember the playground scene where parents of toddlers are shaming Diane’s character for not having her new ward (at 18 months), enrolled for choice schools in New York. I can recall my mirth at the absurdity of this scene. And yet here we are. There are parents whose focus, from the time their child is born, is to set up a pipeline of experiences and opportunities that will maximize said child’s chance of a successful college career.

My senior may not have a plan yet, but I’m unbelievably proud of who she is and the coping skills she is displaying as she navigates this waiting period. Skills that for many have fallen by the wayside because everything they’ve experience in their short lives has been navigated and choreographed by someone else. And when the chips are down, so are they.

If you think about it, the time you have with your child from 0-18 is, in comparison to the rest of their life, short. And yet in those short years we have a narrow window of opportunity to teach them how to live, to cope, to thrive and survive. How they go out into the world, the way they will embrace the obstacles thrown at them, will absolutely depend on what they learned, and the experiences they had (the good, the bad, and the ugly) when they were in your home.

So I ask you this. How are you spending your time with your children? Where is your focus, your priority? Is it on ensuring that they have every opportunity to build a ‘resume’ of activity to demonstrate their prowess in certain areas from the time they are young, or is it on teaching them the basic skills of life that will absolutely transcend that 4 years they may or may not be in college.

Help them figure out who they are and what their needs are in the world.

• Teach them how to forge strong health relationships – by spending quality time as a family
• Teach them how to be part of a team – by requiring that they’re part of yours and give them chores.
• Teach them how to to cope with disappointment and failure – by letting them experience failure on the small stuff and learn how to pick themselves up after the fall.
• Teach them how to be independent and self manage – by encouraging them to have a job and experience the reward that comes from working a hard day.
• Teach them how to take initiative by asking them what they think needs to be done next, or happen next, so they learn how to problem solve.

These skills are the foundation of life and will be a big part of determining how successfully your child will cope with the long and windy road that stretches far beyond their college years. Teach them early, teach them young.