A lot of young adults including two of my own will be heading off to universities and colleges very shortly.
When raising a young person, there are times when we need to hang on and to protect them and there are other times when we need to let them be. There is no precise formula for these kinds of decisions, since each young person is different.
Remember, there can be a huge variance in the way kids mature as they reach adulthood.
Therapy patients frequently ask questions which have to do with when to set limits and when to allow their kids to sort things out on their own.
Recently, much has been written about “the helicopter parent” who hovers over their child, overprotects him or her and who fails to allow the young person to grow and to become self-reliant.
Other parents make the mistake of being too detached from their kids when they need to be more involved.
Again, when a mom or a dad should intervene and when they should step back is often quite tricky and quite complicated.
Nevertheless, while attending a recent college orientation session, one of the university’s speakers encouraged parents to assume the role of the “empathic consultant” before sons or daughters go off to college.
Furthermore, they recommend continuing this process when kids began their course work and their dorm life.
That is, you provide support for the young adult, but you encourage them to problem solve and make their decisions on their own. While expressing your empathy and concern, you involve the young person in the decision making process.
For instance, let’s say your son or daughter asks you they ought to major in. Rather than tell them what subject you think makes sense, it is better to ask them what they are considering and why. This will give rise to some exploration, a dialogue and some useful problem solving.
I believe that a lot of college students and their parents can benefit from this model.
In fact, I plan on testing it out on my own offspring in the coming months.
Jay P. Granat, Ph.D. is a Psychotherapist and Licensed Marriage And Family Therapist in River Edge, New Jersey.