Wednesday, September 5, 2012

1,2, 3....School. Stop Helicoptering

By now the back packs have been adjusted, the new school bus pick-up spots begin to become routine, and pics of the first day of school have been posted to your Facebook  page. You may be anticipating the first school Parent Night of the year.

No matter the age of one's children, hope for a great school year is riding high. We're on the other end of the school years at our house; it happens so quickly. Our daughter, Katie (Russia, 1994) has begun her senior year at Colorado State University; doing well in her major, and deep into presidential leadership of her chapter of Chi Omega sorority. Our son is a married, second-year grad student at Johns Hopkins SAIS in Washington DC. He's not beyond asking the occasional piece of advice, but capable of authoring policy pieces that I often need a dictionary to understand.

It is at precisely this point in the school year when I used to write the following two words on a sticky note and slap it on my bathroom mirror:

#2. Stop helicoptering.  

Let your kids make some mistakes, the earlier the better. We can't save them from everything. No matter if your kids are eight or eighteen, challenged, or average or brilliant, adopted or biological, there comes a point when we have to back up and let them fall. Failure at a young age is OK.  Say this out loud, moms and dads. "Failure at a young age is OK." 

This is true, not just because we're here to help them through it, but because it can help make our kids more resilient. We get to say, “Well, pick up and try again.” We can say that because of #1 (below). As adoptive parents, we know our kids can come with more than their share of challenges. Showing them how to keep trying...and trying...and trying... is a gift. In a past blog post, I shared the story of how Katie's kindergarten teacher and I cooked up a spelling word challenge. She learned to spell the word 'perseverance' at age five as a sing-song; the word itself teaching her its meaning and how to put it in practice. It's still her word. 

Attending freshman parent orientation at CSU four years ago, I actually heard a mother express concern to the head of student services that her son would not wake up for classes and what would the university do to assure that he made it to class. The Dean stared at her for a moment and said "Madam, if you have not taught your son that it is his own responsibility to show up for class by this time, perhaps he needs to understand the consequences."

Parent nights are coming, folks....slap that sticky note on your mirror. Then pick a word for the school year and create a partnership with your kids' teachers...its time for some lessons! This weekend...#3.

Jan Wondra
Vice Chair
National Board of Directors
Families for Russian and Ukrainian Adoption 

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