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When Parents Fail to Surrender Control at School

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School and education is particularly rife with parental control, whether it’s parents choosing their children’s classes, offering too much advice or help with homework, or constantly “coming to the rescue.”

I have previously shared my strong belief that when parents micromanage their children’s lives, they impede their children’s personal growth, independence, and self-reliance. (See “The Fundamental Parental Challenge: Letting Go of Parental Control.”)

Often overlooked, however, is that controlling parents are impacted as well.

Parental stress and anxiety during the transition from high school to college is a prime example.

College Transition Problems for Parents

Challenging college adaptation issues frequently arise for over-controlling parents.    Now required to let go of considerable control, parents become anxious and fearful as they struggle to do so.   And because they were previously so preoccupied with their children’s lives, they typically experience a larger and more difficult “void” than other parents.

An enlightening article in the July 25 Personal Journal section of the Wall Street Journal entitled “At Freshman Orientation, Helping Mom and Dad Let Go,” pinpoints common transition problems for parents and what colleges are doing to help.

One university administrator calls today’s parents “the most over-involved generation of all time.”

The article reports that 90% of colleges now hold special orientation seminars for parents struggling with the transition that include teaching parents how to stay involved without being “helicopter parents.”

“Our job is to take the gas out of the helicopter, so that by the time their children become seniors, that helicopter is grounded, and students can take care of themselves,” says the executive director of parent services at George Washington University.

And as to be expected, incoming students of over controlling parents also struggle.  They frequently aren’t equipped to handle basic living and school tasks and decisions.   The article quotes one freshman as saying, “I’ve never done laundry in my life….I can’t cook, either.  I can make a grilled cheese, and that’s about it.”

Tips for Surrendering School Control and Easing the Transition to College

The transition to college will be much easier if parents start surrendering school control sooner.

It’s not too late to begin even in high school.   I prescribe effective parental decontrol tools in my book (chapter entitled “Losing Parental Control: Reducing the Struggle”), but for now here are four ways that will help you start losing some parental school control now:

*Address your fears about their education.   Parents are too often pre-occupied by “what ifs” and “what might happens” related to school, and lose an objective sense of the reality about educational issues.   (i.e., That Johnny might fail to get into a good college if he receives a B- on his algebra final.)  If you address and process your school fears, you will not feel the need to control nearly as much. (See, “2 keys of letting go of fear.”)

*Remove your ego, personal motives, and social status from the equation.  Remember, it’s not about you. It’s about your children becoming more independent and self-reliant in preparing for the challenges of college.  The less concerned you are about your own issues, the less controlling you will be.

*Allow your children the “opportunity” to make mistakes and exercise poor judgment in their schooling.   Having to face the consequences of turning in homework late, not properly studying for an important exam, or forgetting to bring books and papers to class (and such) encourages them to be more responsible and prepares them better for college.

*Practice “Due Process” Parenting. Give your children their “due.” The simple truth is that we parents are not always right—maybe not even most of the time! What may have been right or good for us may not be so for our children.  It is important for us to acknowledge the innate differences between ourselves and our children, as well as the enormous challenges children face in our hectic, and at times chaotic world. We thus need to be open to re-examining our positions, as well as to listening attentively to the concerns expressed by our children.

I hope these parental decontrol tools help.   Please share with me what ways you have found helpful in learning to let go of unnecessary parental control.

In the meantime, remember to

Let It Go!

Danny

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