A few summers ago when I was at my hair salon getting a haircut, I witnessed the most helicopter mom moment ever, and since I wasn’t up to my blow dry yet, I got to hear every cringe worthy second. I watched a mother accompany her soon-to-be-college freshman son to the beauty salon, go with him to the stylist’s chair, and then proceed to tell the stylist how her son wanted his haircut.
He was leaving for college, and he couldn’t manage a haircut on his own. Oh my.
Having taken a few kids to college myself, I knew she was in for a major shock on college move in day—not a shock like his roommate was heavily tattooed, or that the bathroom down the hall was coed—bigger than that.
The shock will be that no one at Freshman College Orientation will want to talk to her, the mom.
When students arrive at college orientation, the moms (and their carefully organized folders of very important information for moving your child into college) are invisible to the orientation staff; they only have eyes and ears for the freshman student. The college staff doesn’t care that you are standing there smiling and organized and ready to answer all the questions you have been answering for the last 18 years. Name, social security number, dorm room, you name it, they don’t want to hear it from you. They want to hear it from the student, and rightly so.
Will you be ready to step back and allow your child to speak? More importantly, will your child be ready? Will they be ready to look a stranger in the eye and speak up?
They will be—if we are purposeful about encouraging them to speak for themselves as they grow up. If we don’t, we run the risk of them not knowing how to do it when they are old enough to leave home.
Below are a few ideas for situations when kids could speak for the themselves and gain the experience they need to grow into self-sufficient and self-assured young people.
Let’s allow our kids to arrive at college orientation confident young adults able to speak for themselves.
- Have your child call their grandparents to tell them about their week.
- When your family orders takeout, have your child call in the order.
- When you go to the doctor’s office, give your child the insurance card and then take a seat in the waiting room. Or stay home and let them navigate the whole process.
- When your son turns 18, he is required to register with Selective Service. He should fill out that paperwork himself.
- At 18, they can sign their own school permission slips. Allow them to do it.
- Have them pay the bill and leave the tip when your family eats out.
- At family gatherings, have them sit with a distant relative and have an actual conversation.
- Make them be the one to tell the dentist that they never floss.
- Let them speak to their hair stylist about their own hair!
I found that practicing these scenarios ahead of time helped when my kids seemed anxious. I have been the one doing all the talking since they were born, and while they picked up a few things from my example; practice helps. So, go ahead and do some role plays before they check in at the doctor, or pay the restaurant bill, or have that conversation with the distant relative.
You will be glad you did on college move-in day, when your child arrives poised and confident, and no one cares that you are there… ready to sign them up for college the same way you remember signing them up for kindergarten—which seems like it was just yesterday.