As fall approaches, whether we have kids or grandkids or nieces or nephews we all think of this time as “back to school”. It is in our advertisements. It is on the news. It shapes our sports viewing. This seasonal change has become insinuated into our bones.
Parents are bustling around getting young children situated in their classroom and outfitted with the all the their supplies. There is the parenting angst of getting older children through postsecondary stages—college, first jobs, vocational schools.
At this time we are often reliving both our successes and failures in our own transitions. I think it is important to remember that this is not our chance to relive our lives. These stages do belong to our children. In his “Parenting with Dignity” Max Bledsoe states that at age 2, we are making 80% of the choices for our child (not 100% as some people feel). By age 16 that is ratio is reversed and we are making only 20% of the choices. By age 18, we are not really in charge. This independence is tough for parents and for children. They often come into my office at age 18 not knowing what medicines they take or key points of their health history. This transition happens over time but also happens abruptly. After age18, we can’t share information with parents without written consent from our patient. Colleges cannot share grades with parents without permission.
As your child goes from 2 to 18, stop and think about preparing them for their independence. Give them appropriate choices and let them live with the consequences of their actions. Congratulate their successes. Commiserate with their failures. Their success and happiness is wrapped tightly around our hearts but don’t burden them with our angst or confuse ourselves on whose life is it anyway.