Mothers Day: The Gift that Keeps on Giving

iStock_000015524780XSmall.jpgGuest contributor and author Libby Gill shares the Gifts she Cherishes Most from her Children
With Mother’s Day upon us, I can’t help but reflect on the handprint paintings and paper towel roses I’ve received over the years. Though I’m a diehard de-clutterer, I’ve still got every single one.
My “babies” (now 16 and 20) can barely believe how different the world it is than when I was a kid. We played outside until the streetlights came on, which was also the signal for dinnertime. We rode bikes without wearing helmets. We broke a bone or two and nobody thought it was a big deal unless we missed a swimming party.
Our parents more or less left us alone to deal with life as it came. But we can’t do that with our kids (assuming we’d want to), precisely because it’s a different world. Besides being born with an uncanny ability to operate technology, our children have grown up with terrorism, predators and an emphasis on sexuality far more disturbing than anything we faced.
Add to that our instant media culture, and dangers loom larger. In spite of those dangers, or because of them, our primary role as parents is to guide our children to become self-sufficient adults, just as it was in our parents’ day. Given the nature of our world, how do parents let go and let children grow up?
For some parents, the answer is: They don’t. Family size has diminished and parental involvement has grown. The 76,957,164 boomer parents born between 1946 and 1964 are widely considered the wealthiest and best-educated in history. Although many belong to two-career families, they still believe that kids are the center of their universe. The result? A generation of micromanagers whose endless hovering has earned them the title “helicopter parents.”
And age doesn’t seem to make it easier for parents to back off. According to a UCLA survey, 26 percent of college freshmen speak to their parents every day. A Middlebury College study found that parents phone, e-mail or text their freshmen 10 times per week. So how do we make our hovering helpful instead of harmful?
Understand why it’s hard to let go. The dangers are real, and wanting to protect your kids is a natural parental instinct.
Resist the urge to rescue. Instead, encourage discussion; let your kids know they’re heard and respected. Give advice, but let them handle problems on their own.
If you’re always hovering, you send children the message that they’re fragile and unequipped to deal with the world.
Recognize that kids often are as unsure of their abilities as you are. Find safe, supervised places like summer camp, team sports and after-school programs where kids can build skills and self-confidence without your help. As you see them become more competent, you’ll feel better about giving them more challenging opportunities.
The question is: Are you ready for the challenge?
Gill Headshot.jpegLibby Gill is a business coach, brand strategist and bestselling author of You Unstuck: Mastering the New Rules of Risk-taking in Work and life. Learn more at