By: Sue DeCaro
Building, growing and maintaining a relationship with our children takes a lot of effort on our part, as parents. But when we think about this relationship, isn’t it the most important part of being a parent? If we do not have a relationship or connection with our children, everything else falls apart. Relationships and connections are human necessities – we naturally seek the feelings that they evoke.
I have worked very hard on building my relationship with each of my children, separately of course, because they are each individual with unique characteristics, strengths, and gifts. As their mom, my girls needed different things from me. When my youngest entered her junior year, we began to discuss the ACT’s, the SAT’s, her interests, and college. In my mind, I said to myself, “Sue, you must remember that this is about her, not you… you have already received an education.” When I focused on this notion, I knew exactly how I needed to proceed. I believe that this was a very important step for me as a parent. Society puts so much pressure on our children to do well on the excessive amount of standardized tests, to take the highest-level classes, and to achieve and excel in all aspects of life. In my mind, heart and soul, I know that my daughter will thrive wherever she goes and in whatever she does. This is her life to live. When we recognize this and are able to react and respond in this way to our children, we are not contributing to the outside forces and pressure that they have to face each and every day. Kids already feel the pressure that they put on themselves, the pressure from the school system, and the pressure and competition from other students. Home is where the pressure should be lifted.
With this awareness and focus, the pressure is definitely not coming from me. When discussing college with my daughter, I asked questions about how she was feeling about the SAT’sand the ACT’s. I offered her options if she was interested – having a private tutor or group tutoring. She chose a private tutor. Last spring, we began the exciting college tours. She made a list; we talked about her interests and looked at the schools she chose and their academic requirements. As we toured, I said over and over again to myself – this is not about me. After every tour, I asked her what she liked, didn’t like and how she felt about each campus. I listened to her answer, just listened. This is not my journey and I did not want to influence her decision-making process. Empowering my daughter to process for herself, without parental influence, is a gift that we can all offer our children.
Last summer we were at a picnic and 30 people must have asked her about the colleges that she was interested in pursuing. She said, “Mom – I wish I had a brochure… the story gets tiring telling it over and over.” One of our neighbors asked us both which of the six schools in the south was our favorite. I did not want to answer. I tried my best to change the subject. My daughter kept asking “which one?” I finally said, “they were all great, but if I had to pick one it would be Elon.” This was the conversation that I had been trying to avoid.
Since then, I have not said a word about my feelings, thoughts or concerns. I love my daughter and want to continue to empower her with my love and compassion, so she can make this life-changing decision on her own. It is the beginning of many choices she will be making in her life. I genuinely support whatever she decides.
As a society, I believe we have lost sight of children’s needs and desires – who our children are – empowering them with choices, listening and learning what they think. For all we know, they may surprise us as to how well they can handle the task of college-searching; however, we will never know until we give our children the autonomy to do so.