We have all heard the term, “helicopter parent,” but few of us will admit to being one. Why? Simply, because we don’t want to believe that we hover over our children, swooping in to rescue them whenever we see trouble ahead. Instead, we justify our behavior by declaring, “Isn’t it a parent’s right to want the best for our children?” Of course it is, and we shouldn’t have to feel guilty about it. But sometimes, we need to step back and re-evaluate our parent-child relationship within a new framework. As our children grow, so must we. So, how can we be helpful during the teen years without taking over?
1. Believe in your teen’s ability to make choices.
Making all of the decisions for our children hurts their self-esteem and sends a message that they aren’t capable. Your teen has been listening to your lessons for years. Let him/her test their decision-making skills while you are around to provide support.
2. Teach your teen practical skills.
It is surprising how many teens don’t even know where the stamp goes on a letter. Before your teen leaves home, teach him/her how to do laundry, write a check, schedule a doctor’s appointment, cook a basic meal, sew on a button, read a map, write a thank you note, etc. These skills will foster your child’s independence and “can do” attitude.
3. Respect your teen’s opinions.
Let your teen know that you are interested in his/her ideas, interests, and thoughts on various topics, especially the ones that affect them directly. Listening shows that you value what your child has to say, which will lead to less conflict, and more harmonious decision-making.
4. Challenge your teen to rise to the occasion.
Be clear about your expectations. Carefully analyze your teen’s aptitudes and abilities, and encourage them to do their best, even if that means getting less than an A. As one of my daughters reminded me, the grade isn’t as important as enjoying the class and learning the material.
5. Be a good role model.
Children have a difficult time respecting parents who say one thing, and do another. If you make a rule, enforce it. Teens don’t need more friends; they need examples of appropriate behavior. So, check yourself first and strive to continue to do your best. And while you are at it, find activities (that are not child-related) that fulfill you.
Whether you are ready or not, your children will grow into adulthood and make lives for themselves. While it is important to stay involved and make your expectations clear, it is also important to value your child’s vision of his/her own future. So, if you find yourself hovering from time to time, think about these tips to keep you grounded.