As the title of this blog suggests, I allow my 6 year old to walk to school. In this era of parents driving kids to school, or even bus stops, I get some serious side-eye when I tell other parents that. Now, let’s be clear. He has an 8 year old brother that he walks with. School is about a quarter of a mile from our house with all sidewalks and no major streets to cross. Still, it’s a decision, much like allowing children to play at a playground alone, that could get me thrown in “mom jail.”
I may be starting earlier than some parents would be comfortable with, but I believe that it’s important to allow our children the opportunity to be independent and take risks. Successful independence leads to confidence. Unsuccessful independence is an opportunity for learning and growth. Failure is an essential part of growing up. By encouraging risks, our kids may fail, or they may flourish. And, it’s best that they fail when they have you to pick them back up.
So, now, consider how this translates to the teen years and the college selection and application process. When parents micromanage their teens, they are sending the message that, I don’t trust you to do this yourself, I need to do this for you. That’s a powerful message to send your young adult off into the world with. No wonder anxiety is plaguing young people.
All of this is to say: your child needs to own the college process for him/herself. You may have doubts; you may have reservations; you may be terrified. But don’t let it show! Tell your children that you believe in them to make the right decisions. Of course you can offer guidance and support along the way, no parent can resist throwing in their opinion, but do your best to foster their sense of independence.
Ways you can encourage risks as it pertains to the college process:
- Allow your child to attend college counseling meetings with their Campus Bound counselor by themselves. (We will happily send you an email summary and answer your questions.)
- Allow your child to visit colleges with friends, without you in tow.
- Resist the urge to “help” with the college essay.
- Never fill out any applications for your child (with the exception of financial aid forms).
- Encourage your child to email college admission officers (by themselves) or pick up the phone if they have questions.
Again, I’m not saying its easy to take a step back. In my own situation, I made sure there are sidewalks, crossing guards, other children and adults around. We not only did several walks together, but we’ve had many conversations about “what not to do.” The risk is minimal. But the rewards are great: I’m telling my children that I trust them to do the right thing, I’m offering them the honor and respect of my trust. I’m setting them up to succeed.