David Brooks, a columnist for the New York Times wrote a great Op-Ed today called: Its Not About You. In it he discusses the plight of this season's new college graduates, and how ill-prepared they are to face the great big world out there after growing up as a "member of the most supervised generation in history. They have been monitored, tutored, coached, and honed to an unprecedented degree, going out into a world that is wide open and unstructured." He continues to say that "these young people are going into an amazingly diverse job market, social landscape and lifestyles niche." Marriage, buying a home, and having kids, things we, their parents, all took for granted, they may choose to opt out of, or is out of their reach financially. I don't know about you, but me and most of my friends are too busy paying off college and housing debts to be of much financial help to our young adult children. It's a cold hard world out there these days, and many of these young adults end up back home. They don't call it the "boomerang generation" for nothing.
Knowing this, and accepting this as your child's fate can be a tremendous asset as you prepare your teenagers now, for the future that awaits them. You know what's coming and it is your job to ready your teen for today's reality not yesterday's. How? By making your teens accountable for their decisions, by teaching them skills to be independent and adventurous rather than fearful and timid. I know many many kids who believe or not, don't know how to mail a letter at the post office, take the train into the city, order food at a restaurant that is not the local pizza parlor, deal with money, call and make an appointment for a doctor or a dentist, figure out directions to a place they have never been to before, pay a bill, understand how much things cost, and so on and so on and so on. When our kids ask us the "how do you?" questions, or will you? questions, we are so happy to be needed that we jump in to get or do for our kids so they will be grateful and love us more. We are not doing them any favors.
Do a self-check. Do you over-protect, and/or over-indulge your teen. Do you discourage them from taking public transportation or from driving somewhere that is unfamiliar because its too scary for YOU? Do you give into their demands/requests for things because you like to pamper them and feel needed, or do you expect if they want something they need to work for it. Because that is what they will have to learn to do when they walk into their future.
Your teens need to believe that you believe that that they will be OK. The world is not so scary a place if you have been prepared to live in it. Next time they say, will you drive us into the city, tell them you will teach them how to take public transportation. Next time they need to go for a dentist appointment, tell them they know their schedule better than you, and let them make it. When their college applications need to get mailed in the fall, send them off to do it for themselves. If they want an expensive pair of jeans, or sneakers or video games, even if you can afford it, let them work to buy it themselves. Be creative and find ways for them to learn: "I can live in this world and be successful." Baby steps!