What do you as a parent owe your children? What should you do for them? If your first thought was everything, you might need to reassess. It can be difficult to identify the boundaries between helping and enabling or damaging your child’s ability to establish a necessary independence. Adding to that difficulty is the fact that every child is different, so if you have several kids, you may find that they each need a different approach. However, you can use the guidelines below in most situations.
Going to College
If your child wants to go to college, it’s going to be difficult for them to do it on their own. Your child absolutely will need your emotional, practical, and financial assistance. From researching schools and understanding how best to choose one to applying for financial aid and scholarships to having the full amount of money necessary, it’s difficult for a young person to do on their own.
You can help by creating an educational savings account, such as a 529 or a Coverdell Education Savings Account, and making regular contributions to it. However, you may still need to look to other funding sources. One source might be a private student loan, but your child may need a cosigner to get approval. You can review a guide that explains whether you should cosign and what this would entail.
Issues with Friends
Fighting with friends or other issues that arise can be very painful for your child, and your temptation might be to try to step in and smooth everything over. However, it’s much better to let your child work out these issues on their own. You absolutely can stand by and give support. Listening, talking, and asking questions are all helpful.
You can even ask your kid if they’d like some advice or help in coming up with solutions, but you shouldn’t try to fix things. You absolutely should not turn a blind eye to bullying or allow your child to make cruel comments about other children. You also should not try to brush off cruel comments your child might heard. At the same time, keep in mind that your child might not always be the most reliable reporter. Encourage them to problem solve and talk to you about the outcome.
Your child needs to do their own schoolwork, even if you are both frustrated, and it would be much easier if you could just give them the answers. In fact, while you should be available to help with homework, your child should be encouraged to be a self-starter when it comes to completing these types of tasks. If the work is too difficult or they are having other issues, you might want to schedule a discussion with their teacher. While it’s important to take the things your child tells you seriously, keep in mind as well that their account might not be entirely accurate. Talking with the teacher might help clarify any difficulties they are having.
It can be tough to resist the urge to push your kid into activities that you either loved or wished your parents would let you do, but you need to let them be their own person. You can encourage certain activities, but if they give it a try and aren’t interested, let them drop it. Working part time can be a great experience for your teenager even if it is just a few hours each week in the summer. This can make them more responsible and independent and is also good for lessons in personal finance. Help them open a bank account and figure out what they want to do with the money they earn.