There comes a day in every family structure when the child longs for more independence than the parent is willing to give at that particular time. However, unlike when they were much younger and you could uncontestably set the age and rules for engagement at sleepovers, what they could wear before leaving your house, the friends they kept and the minimum age for makeup and heels; things seem different when dealing with a flown and grown child.
Whether they are still in varsity or finishing up school on a full time or part time basis, living at home, in tertiary residence or private accommodation; the one thing that never changes is that no matter how old the child is, parents will still consider them to be their little ones. Furthermore, the added social and peer pressures may constantly stretch students to experiment more.
Unlike the former lightheaded disagreements, parents often unanimously agree that this stage presents a whole new beast. Many parents and guardians feel overwhelmed that their children may not be able to make mature decisions. Additionally, a lot of the decisions they make now can have permanent effects. These controversial decisions – that often cause a lot of tension between parents and children – may include the following:
- Decisions to get a tattoo
- Engaging in sexual relations which could result in unplanned pregnancies and/or sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/Aids
- Pursuing a “useless” qualification
- Dropping out of college
- Wanting to get married early
- Experimenting with potentially dangerous substances such as smoking, alcohol and drugs
- Going out at night to dangerous gigs and clubs
As a parent, it is so very difficult to just leave them, even when you think they are wrong because in the end, when they hurt, you hurt. Your children are the very best of you and it is instinctive to protect them and prevent them from making the same silly mistakes that you invariably did.
Here are three surefire guidelines to help tackle, address and resolve the conflict that arises between a student’s cry for independence and parents’ quest to hold on.
1. Set up a family meeting every month and/or quarter
In such a meeting, there should be rules of engagement such as an agreement to be non-judgmental, respectful of others’ opinions, no disrespectful gestures and so forth. If you are religious, you may start and end with a prayer.
Depending on the formalities and nature of your relationship, you may even ask for an agenda ahead of time or choose to keep it casual, but whatever the case, use this as your catch up time to connect and hear each other out.
2. Don’t sweat over the minors
Your child wanting to make their own independent decisions at this age is a good thing. As an adult, you want to be able to raise children who can make good decisions on their own, even after you are gone.
Try not to be a “helicopter mom/dad” who frets over every single decision they make. Ease down on the lectures regarding the minor stuff. Perhaps they dress differently, speak using slang or express themselves in means that are not dangerous, but could be improved; let them be.
3. Give them more responsibility
Don’t just tell your child that you believe that they are capable of making the right decisions; show them. Go away on that long overdue trip and leave them in charge of your household on their own. Let them get a job and start contributing to the bills of their car, food, recreation, rent, water and lights bills. Stop cleaning their bedroom for them. Teach them how to load a washing machine or use their hands. Treat them like responsible adults and support their decisions, even if you don’t understand them.