As I have stated in earlier blogs, our youngest and only daughter graduated from high school this year. She will be leaving for college in the fall and so much of my husband’s and my focus quite naturally has been focused on her making this all important transition in her life. She will be living away from home for the first time for an extended period of time and learning to be on her own in several ways. Many of our friends have children the same age and are going through the same process which has opened up a lot of discussion and conversation about what our role as parents should be during this all important time in our childrens’ lives.

 

     I am becoming increasingly amazed at how many parents feel that high school graduation pretty much marks the end of their parenting. Now and then we have had other parents say to us “We got them to age eighteen, they are now on their own. If they haven’t learned what we have tried to instill in them by this point then they never will.”  When I hear a parent state this viewpoint, quite frankly , I shudder. I could not disagree more with this misguided philosophy! Folks, having this mindset can be likened to finding a baby bird that has fallen out of a nest, carefully and painstakingly nurturing and feeding that tiny bird until it can almost fly and then climbing a tall tree and tossing that bird out in the air to “test” its wings even though you are not quite certain that it is at all ready to fly. What an enormous and potentially devastating risk you would be taking with the life of that bird because if it is not ready to fly, it is obviously going to die a very quick death as it falls to the ground. Many parents would think such a comparison to be silly, but is it?  Think about it…for eighteen years we protect, instruct, shelter, guide, and nurture our children while they are living with us under our roof and then all of  a sudden they turn eighteen years old and for some baffling reason we feel that they are now ready to be completely on their own in every way. It is so very odd that our society considers eighteen to be some sort of magical time when the moment our child blows out those eighteen candles on that cake, our job is finished.

 

        If anything, I submit that the exact opposite is true!  The time period between ages eighteen and twenty-four is the span of time in which truly life scarring events can and do happen in a young person’s life. It is the time period in which they are becoming a young adult, making decisions away from the supervision of their parents and arriving at conclusions  in their mind that will often steer and determine the direction that their life takes. They will be choosing how closely they will follow the values and teachings of mom and dad and how they differ in their own thinking regarding much of what they have been taught and exposed to during their growing up years. This is a very natural and heathly process that is all part of a young person’s maturation however it is not a process that they should have to navigate entirely on their own. Instead it is a time period in which they should have close communication and much input from those two people who brought them into the world and who love them more than anyone else .

 

      When our three sons were in college, we did not have a requirement that they call so many times a week or anything of the sort and actually because they were young men, their need for communication with us was not as frequent or as often I’m sure as most daughters’ communication is with their parents. I will say however that when they were facing or considering important decisions, they did not hesitate to call my husband and I to bounce their thoughts and ideas off of us and that is the way it should be.   Communication is the key in helping kids to successfully make that fragile transition from high school student to responsible adult. I am always confused when I talk to a fellow parent whose child is away at college and I ask how their child is doing in classes, or if they are dating someone special and the parents’ response is “Don’t really know, they don’t offer up a lot of information about those sorts of things…they like to keep that sort of stuff private, so we don’t ask.”  Excuse me? Are you kidding me?  For goodness sake, why do you think our great God created the order of children and parents? It is to help those children complete the journey, not just get three fourths of the way through it.  I am quite certain that there is a segment of parents reading this blog who are in disagreement with my slant on this hands on approach of staying in close communication during these late teen and early twenty something years, but I hold fast to my position. I say that because we as parents have more experience, more wisdom, many more hard learned lessons under our belts than our budding young adults, that it is our responsibility to continually share with them, talk with them, and do all we can to keep the avenues of communiation tight and solid between us and them. If we adopt the widely accepted hands off approach of symbolically taking out the scissors to “cut them loose,” we may think we are helping them or doing them a huge favor but many times the result is just the opposite.  I have seen too many college aged kids just make too many unwise decisions that then adversely affected the rest of their lives to ever want to take that risk.  

 

       Fellow parents, it is a very twisted and confused world that we live in. It is a much different world than it was when I was trying to figure things out in my late teens and early twenties and so the need for staying close and guiding our kids during this period of their lives in my opinion is an even greater need now than it has ever been. Please be wise and finish the course; yes, it takes effort, time, and energy but my, are the results worth it!  It is so much better to keep walking on the road of parenting a little further and to watch those kids as happy, fulfilled and blessed adults than to veer off the path way too early and to watch them have to struggle and suffer heartache and hardship as adults because of prior wrong decisions. When it comes to our kids, we simply must go the distance. If we don’t, who will?