I was in Provo, Utah this past week leaving five of my eight children to attend Brigham Young University. My childdren ages 27, 25, 22, 20, and 18 will all be taking classes there this fall. We had lots of fun spending time with our five oldest children. I must admit when the time came to drive away, there were a few tears. Saying goodbye was hard, really hard.
Other friends dropping off their children at various colleges around the country reported the same feelings. We have been comforting each other as some of our children have left the nest. As we have been talking, we've relived moments of triumph from the past few years---touchdown passes, interceptions returned for touchdowns, dance trophies, half-time shows, pep rallies, toilet papering houses, homecoming and prom dates, band performances, choir awards, fund raisers, service at the nursing home, game-day lunches, bus rides, etc.
So now this group of good kids is in college, and while we are ALWAYS mothers, we can say, "Mission Accomplished!" Each of these new freshman is A) academically successful (They are attending Princeton, University of Texas, Oklahoma State, Brigham Young, Southern Virginia, Texas Christian, Baylor and others), B) physically coordinated (They are football players, baseball players, drill team dancers, cheerleaders, track runners, etc), and C) socially gracious (They are well-liked by many friends, but also their teachers and their friends' parents). They still have a LOT of growing up to do, but they are ready to do this outside the protective and watchful eye of their parents---and this is the goal of successful parents, to raise capable independent young men and women. My "well done" goes out to each of these fine parents.
But not every mother of an 18-year-old with tears in her eyes is crying because her child is successfully leaving home. Some of them have tears because their child is NOT succeeding---and those are the bitter tears every parent would do anything to avoid. If only they could have known two things A) what to do and B) when to do it. I do not propose to have every answer to both of those questions. I do, however, have some suggestions to answer at least part of the questions.
What to do--There are a LOT of things to do to help ensure the success of your growing child and, again, I don't propose to have every answer. I do, however, think it would be wise for your first step to be making the decision to be pro-active. I have know many parents who have lamented taking the "wait and see" approach.
Once you've decided to be pro-active, then educating yourself would seem to be the next likely step. Find out how children develop and what milestones to look for along the way. Do not simply take someone's word for it---learn from a variety of good sources for yourself. You can begin by taking the Brain Development class---either online or in person. Check out this seminar information.
Make your home a brain-stimulating environment. Nutrition, activity levels, intellectually-challenging opportunities, and others are areas where parents can make some choices that are intentionally set up for growing the brains of children. Be willing to act contrary to popular culture in your child's best long-term interest.
Stay the course--Raising children to be successful young adults is not a sprint, it is a marathon. It is something that requires dedication and staying focused on the goal. Don't give up. Having a good support system is helpful is very helpful! The Parents With Purpose Forum may be able to help.
Enjoy the journey with your children. If your children are succeeding, nothing should be more enjoyable. Participating in and/or watching my children's activities are my FAVORITE things to do. Of course, there are tough times that go along with the good ones, but if your children are learning and growing the right direction, even the tough times are helping achieve your goal.
If you look at how your child is progressing along his pathway, and you are not comfortable with their progress, consider another approach to help them. If YOU are not happy, then don't let other people tell you to stop being pro-active on behalf of your child. And that brings me to my next point---when to do it. This is a simple answer---NOW. Don't wait. Start on the "What to Do" list right away. Your time with your child will fly by. Make the best use of these fleeting years while you still can.
My goal for parents participating in the Parents With Purpose program is for them to have the same tears I had last week. I want you all to experience the successful moment when you confidently send your young adult on their way. It is a hard moment, but it is what we should be working toward. Congratulations to all my friends who have shed those tears recently. Mission Accomplished!