Teens Don’t Magically Become Adults at 18, They Need Guidance Along the Way
There is a video making the rounds now of a mom “pushing her child out of the nest.” Upon arrival at the doctor’s office, she informs her child that she will not be going in with them, that being 18 means you handle this alone. While I agree that a parent shouldn’t be accompanying an 18-year-old to a doctor’s visit, I have an issue with this seemingly “all of a sudden” approach.
I believe there is another way.
Yes our adult kids should be doing adult things, but there is nothing magic about turning 18, and pretending there is does a disservice to us all. There is a societal expectation that being 18 means you are independent, that you are capable of being self-sufficient, that you no longer need support, but this only happens if we have learned important skills along the way.
As parents, we need to foster independence in small bites, ideally starting when our kids first hit the teen years. We need to give them opportunities to make small decisions, to prepare them for the big ones. We need to pay attention to subtle cues that they are floundering and guide them when the process becomes stressful.
This may look like role playing for an interview. It may be providing a script, then handing them the phone to call to make an appointment. It may be asking “What do you think?” when they are faced with a social dilemma. If often means sitting back and watching, rather than doing. It means letting them make mistakes, AND being available to talk through what went wrong, WHEN THEY ASK.
While of course that mom knows her child better than I do, I struggled to watch this video as I saw panic in this “new” adult’s eyes. This approach may work for some, but personally I much prefer building confidence in small bites, gradually pulling away as they handle things with someone more experienced close by, like a safety net, “just in case” (which to be honest, I found to be almost never). I would rather have my kids say “No thanks, I’ve got it” than tell them “Have fun, you’re on your own.”