When Should You Stop Helicopter Parenting?
When 30 percent of recent college graduates say their parents are involved in their job search, it’s already too late.
When nearly 10 percent of recent college graduates say their parents attended a job interview with them, it’s way too late.
When around 3 percent of recent college graduates say their parents participated in a job interview with them, it’s so scary beyond ‘its too late’ that we should all shut ourselves in our rooms and hide.
These are terrifying numbers. Being coddled after getting scraped up at kindergarten recess by mommy or daddy is totally acceptable. Having mommy or daddy hold your hand during an interview when you’re twenty-eight isn’t.
If the hand-holding helped, maybe it would be a worthwhile trade-off. We all know that with a job market as competitive as it is, having an extra boost might almost (but probably, almost certainly doesn’t) make up for sitting in the actual interview room with your grown-up child. But employers have even been known to withdraw job offers to candidates whose parents might be a tad (read: overwhelmingly) involved in their child’s business life.
It’s time to step back, take a deep breath, and let little Johnny or Mary take a few steps without your worrying about them falling off the sidewalk. Especially if they’re already in high school.
What’s the Good News? Please Tell Me There’s Good News…
There is! If your child is not yet in college, there is time to undue the overburdening you’ve been doing by flying over your kids heads this entire time. It can be exceptionally scary to let go, even a little bit, when you know it’s safer having you there. And of course it is! If we all sat in padded rooms 24/7, we’d all be safer, but we also wouldn’t be living. If you’d like little Johnny and little Mary to grow up into Respected Nonprofit President John and Associate Anthropology Professor Mary, they’ll need to know they can navigate the world without you.
Here are three simple steps you can take to turn off the chopper:
- Let your teen choose an activity that excites him or her. The more engaged with the subject your teen is, the more likely he/she is to take the time necessary to excel at it. And when he/she stumbles – and yes, there will be stumbling – they’ll be more inclined to strap themselves back in and take a go at it again, because it is important to them. The best part is you can be their cheerleader instead of their coach, and that’s a lot more fun (and they’ll appreciate your presence instead of resenting it later).
- Break out of your own comfort zone. It may be time to reevaluate what your own fears are, what your level of comfort is in regards to what your child is involved in, and determine if there’s any unnecessary overlap. Sure, it may be intimidating to think that Johnny wants to volunteer in Africa for 3 weeks without you, or that Mary plans to run – and win -the 100 meter dash at her upcoming track meet, but trust them. It doesn’t mean you have to give in to every demand, but it does mean listening intently to what your teen wants.
- Consider what the end goal really is. If you’re ultimate goal is for your teen to turn into the next big success, short of being insanely wealthy and lucky enough to launch their careers based off your own reality TV show, you’re not going to be able to do it for them. While it’s hard to comprehend the idea of letting go, doing so in small, explicit steps can allow you to release the reigns in a way that feels natural to both of you. If Johnny wants to run a nonprofit someday, help him think of ways that he can accomplish that goal, and then ask him what he thinks is the best route to get there. He may decide that a nontraditional path is more likely to get him where he’s going, and you’ll be there to help him bounce back ideas. That’s great – you’re relating like adults, and giving Johnny the opportunity to think for himself. That’s already a big start!