Michele Armani and Sally Meisenheimer
Dear Style & Substance:
We are the parents of 2 high school age kids and are watching our friends with children that are graduating – most are either staying at home or moving back home because of the economy. We are concerned about it and wonder what you would suggest in preparing for this or is it just to be expected?
There is a lot to be said about this very important issue, therefore this is part one of a two part column. This trend has most recently been termed “failure to launch”, which sounds quite negative. If we turn it around and call it “successful launching”, we may come up with some more positive solutions. We believe your concerns are spot on.
We recommend that you start early in having realistic expectations and being communicative and flexible with these. We believe that the early start means as soon as you begin communicating with your child. It can be a very “soft sell” throughout or you can wait until the last year and start the “hard sell”. From listening and doing it on our own, we can say that the “soft sell” is a much easier and smoother method.
While every family situation is unique, there are commonalities in the “soft sell” of launching your child: set high, yet reasonable, standards, expect success and failure, hold them accountable to right their wrongs, and celebrate self-reliance. Parents can have fun with this, and should! A very important part of a child’s growth is developing a positive sense of self which builds confidence and independence.
Creating an expectation oriented environment, means that your communication, interactions and behaviors reflect what you wish for your children. In other words, do what you say and say what you do. This shows consistency and reliability, which are two very important traits in the successful launch. To produce emotionally, physically and spiritually healthy young adults, the key outcomes should be that they have their own personal sense of discipline, understand consequences of actions and behaviors, and seek to meet their potential.
Create a checklist of all the things you need to teach your child before they leave home.
Some ideas for the list are: securing and keeping a job, opening and maintaining a bank account, budgeting and money management, time management and follow through, how to wash and fold laundry, sewing on a button, presentable grooming/dressing, healthy cooking on a budget, a fitness routine, returning an item to a store, changing a flat tire, making a doctors or other appointment, etc… As these opportunities present themselves, take the time to begin and continue with the instruction. Sometimes you will have to demonstrate and other times they can try on their own with some constructive feedback. Be approachable and let your kids know that no question is too silly.
Dinner table conversation can provide a more relaxed opportunity to discuss the learning of these life skills and the very real concerns young adults have as they prepare to launch.
Using stories of other’s successes and struggles are perfect ways to teach the lessons of life with compassionate and thoughtful responses.
Learning these skills, essentially developing a bag of tricks, at a steady pace throughout childhood gives them the ability to focus on tougher, inevitable unknowns when out on their own, and enables them to launch with confidence.
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