Launch Global Education
Sparks blog: It is time to shift

Learn to take the supporting role in your child's educational journey

by Dr. Ann Wagner

You have taken the lead from the start, well, technically, even before the start.  As a parent, I know that we will do anything and EVERYTHING to ensure our child(ren)’s success.  Yet, we also want our kids to grow up, leave the house, and support themselves someday, right?  So, as they start the university selection process, it is time to start letting go.

Supporting the Transition

Leaving home and venturing out on one’s own can be terrifying.  During these years of transition, your child will display moments of impressive decision-making and mature focus, followed at times by genuinely infantile behavior.  This is normal, but it may make you think s/he’s not mature enough yet.  However, if you wait until the spring of your child’s last year of high school, it is too late.  There is no time like the present to support your child in readying themselves for university, career, and life.

Letting Them Fail

What?  Who does that?  Well hopefully, you do.  Giving your child the room and space to fail allows them to learn from their mistakes and grow.  It’s easy to allow them to choose and fail at simple things, like spending a few dollars of their savings on a disappointing purchase, but how do you handle big mistakes, like failing to complete a school project on time?

As difficult as it is, swooping in and rescuing your child every time they make a mistake is not the answer. When you head to the school to talk to the teacher yourself, it only (incorrectly) teaches your children one thing: you are the solution to every one of their problems.  This not only sets children up poorly for their transitions into university life, but it also doesn’t prepare them for the inevitable challenges they will face in their lives and their careers. 

And let’s not even discuss the parents who contact their adult child’s university professors about their grades.  Simply put: don’t.

Forcing Them to Think

Look at your children’s problems as opportunities; it forces them to think.  Sure, your daughter is excited to get into her number one choice university, but if she takes the scholarship package offered at her second-choice university she will save $80,000 USD on her undergraduate degree.  That’s enough to pay for her master’s degree.  Should she go to her first-choice school anyway?  You should be there to help her frame the choices, but not to make them for her.

Being a Good Listener

You are not going to school.  Your child is.  Your son is going to need to bounce ideas off you.  Practice good listening skills.  Support him by letting him know how proud you are of the way he is weighing the plusses and minuses of his choices.  Assure him he will make a good decision and that you will offer your feedback as he asks for it.  Let him know you are there to assist, but not to take over.

Taking a Role as a Member of the Support Team

It is time for your child to lead.  Every adult, from you as her parent to the school counselor and the university advisor should consider themselves a member of your daughter’s support team.  Your daughter needs to develop the plan and set it into motion.  She needs to complete her applications and follow up with the universities.  She needs to check her documents to make sure they are correct.  She needs to contact the school she will attend to accept the offer.  She needs to arrange for her housing.  She needs to choose her classes.  She needs to do it.  But she may need your advice, guidance, and support.  Let her know that you are there as she needs you but allow her the room to lead.  It is by doing these things herself that she will understand the journey upon which she is embarking.

Seeing the Results of Your Hard Work

Granted, you will worry no matter what.  But rest assured you will sleep better knowing your child stepped up and took care of his business.  Stepping back may feel counterintuitive, but it is the right thing to do for your child.

Ann Wagner, EdD is a founder and the Vision Engineer for Launch Education.  Dr. Wagner has led international schools around the world and currently teaches at the university level, working with educators earning their masters' degrees.