Posted by: kathyseal | September 18, 2008

When your child starts college: tips for parents

In a nice article with tips for parents with a child starting college Sarah Lindner writes in the Austin, Tx American-Statesman,You’re trying to figure out your new role in your child’s life,and how to help without becoming a hovering ‘helicopter’ parent.”

When your child is having trouble in chemistry class or doesn’t like her roommate, the desire to jump in and solve the problem,  continues Lindner, is surprisingly powerful.  Then she quotes Wendy:

“‘Nobody talks about how strong those feelings are,’ says Wendy Grolnick, co-author of  Pressured Parents, Stressed-out Kids.'”

We  shouldn’t feel guilty about these protective urges, continues the article, since “looking after our children is part of our basic wiring. The answer isn’t to stop yourself from feeling those emotions. Instead, it’s making sure you channel them in ways that are helpful to your child.”

The main way to be helpful is to listen, offer empathy, and let your child know your understand. “Ooh, that noise must make it hard to sleep !” you might say.  Then help your child talk throughwhat he can do to solve the problem.

The article continues: “Treat them like a responsible adult and talk to them as if they’re going to be able to handle a situation,” Grolnick says.

This teaches your child that he’s a competent person who can manage any problems that come up, she says. Being pushy or controlling sends the opposite message: Your child starts to figure that if you keep coming to his rescue, then he must not be a capable person himself.

I know that I tend to panic and catastrophize when my kids tell me that something isn’t working in their lives and that I have to struggle to stay calm and optimistic. “You quit your old job without  a definite offer for the new one?”   “You got evicted from your apartment?”  Every little glitch in their lives feels awful in the pit of my stomach. But talking to them about what they plan to do next and listening to them talk through solutions puts me back on an even emotional keel.  Listening to their emotional tone helps too.  So often they’re far less upset than I am! Letting them know I realize that they’re competent, and capable of solving their own problems is good for both of us.


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