Could very well be that you see yourself or someone you know in this piece. You know, that overly protective parent that wants the absolute best for their growing child and in a misguided effort to protect them from some of the rough patches, sets them up for some tough life lessons later on. They raise a person who has been and perhaps continues to be sheltered, coddled and cocooned against the normal growing pains and then with little exposure and experience eventually has to fend for themselves.
When their small, parents generally safeguard their children from potential danger. Everything from sealing up electrical outlets to buying furniture with rounded edges is done with the little one in mind. As the child grows from baby to toddler; from youngster to teen, most parents adjust their protectiveness somewhat. There’s that first time the child gets to ride around the block without a parental escort, that first independent walk to school, being left alone for a few hours while the shopping is done etc.
All the above are just a few of the normal activities which set up growing independence in our children, preparing them for the time ahead when they’ll be on their own and will need some life skills upon which to build their own. For many, the first time away is in College or University; that 2-4 or more year period which often signals the transition period from living under the parents roof to eventually getting their own.
Now some parents are better at setting their children up for successful transitions than others; just as some young adults are better adapted to taking on personal responsibility for their success or failings than others. Eventually everybody comes to the point when mom and/or dad aren’t there and you’re on your own. If mom and/or dad have done their job to lead and the child/children have done their job to learn, the odds rise for reaching success.
At play here are a number of issues for most adults as they raise their children. For starters most parents want the best for their children. Most of us also recognize that while we’d like to insulate them from the catastrophic disasters in life, it is necessary and actually a good thing that they struggle with manageable challenges. Why? Primarily because in dealing with challenges, whether ultimately successful or not, there are lessons to be learned which make future challenges of increasingly more significance easier to tackle.
That’s a key concept here; essentially using past experiences upon which to build moving forward. When facing a problem or challenge, drawing on what worked or didn’t work so well in the past to find how to approach things in the present. The more we’ve had experience with something, the greater the possibility that we can transfer what we’ve learned and apply it to a new challenge. While successes are wonderful and to be celebrated, failures are equally good assuming a something has been learned in the process. The learning that occurs not only helps us to approach this current problem with a new strategy or approach, but it also helps us when facing challenges down the road.
Cocooning a child, teen or young adult from such challenges may seem to save them some grief in the short-term, but down the road they may not be as well prepared to deal with a greater challenge having not had exposure or experience to resolving a somewhat easier challenge for themselves in the past.
Many of us have experienced or know of someone who benefitted from their mom or dad landing them their first job. They knew somebody and made a call or two, pulled some strings and got junior their first job. Nothing wrong with that is there? Well probably not. However, how many jobs should a parent ‘get’ for their child or intervene in any way other than to be a cheerleader from the sidelines?
Years ago I remember clearly a man who not only applied for a job without his sons knowledge, he drove him to the interview intending to sit in the interview with his son! When he was told that he wasn’t welcome to do so, he became indignant and took his son home without the interview ever having taken place.
Applying for a job and working with other people is a great experience that provides many learning opportunities. Applying for a job and being passed over in favour of someone else can be a negative experience. I’ve found however that young people are pretty resilient. They are generally good at looking for and finding other jobs to apply to and learning from their experiences.
Of course as parents we’ve got a role to play to guide, instruct, help and support our children as they transition from depending on us to being self-sufficient. It can be stressful trying to decide when to let our children learn on their own and when to give them the solutions which we’ve found on our own through trial and error. And our kids? They don’t always want our advice anyway do they? I mean they know and want to find out things for themselves.
Yes it can be a fine line sometimes. Maybe the best we can do is give them the benefit of our experience and then let them go. Perhaps we’ve done our job at that point.