Tuesday, March 8, 2011

When can I stop parenting my child?

by Jan Shoop
My answer to the question -- When do I stop being a parent? -- Is never.

When your child is young, growing and moving through his elementary years you are a parent in many ways. You monitor his activities, assist with homework, drive him to games and give him hugs when he is sad.

But, you should continue to be a parent when your child starts high school. Many times I have worked with parents who stopped being a parent when their child started high school. They stopped acting like a parent and started becoming a friend. That is the wrong decision. High school students need support, guidance and counseling just as much as younger children. A teenager’s world completely changes when he gets to high school. New friends, sports, clubs and many more influences impact his life and decisions. Your teen will have lots of friends through high school, but only one parent. And during the high school years, a teenager definitely needs the guidance and support of a parent.

Well, then what about when your child goes to college? Do you stop being a parent then? Not quite. When young adults go to college they need just as much support as in high school.
Just in other ways. Chances are your child will be moving out of the house when he starts college. He will be making decisions on health, finances, friends and school options that all need your support. Questions like:  How much time do I spend studying? What do I say to a professor when I’m struggling? How do I balance work, school and my social life? And again the best parent is not a friend, but a parent that supports and provides guidance. Now I’m not saying you should be treating your college bound child like a child in elementary school. But he still needs your support as a parent, not as a friend.

What about after college when my child has his first “big boy” job? Or when he becomes engaged or married? What about during the birth of his first child? What if your child is going through a divorce or loses a child of his own? Do you stop being a parent then? Absolutely not! You will always be a parent. The only thing that changes is the scope of how you guide, support and love your child - not whether you are a parent or not.

So, if you are thinking about having children, remember parenthood doesn’t end when your child is in high school, or goes away to college, or even when he gets married. Parenthood is a lifetime profession and one you cannot quit, be laid off from, or refuse to go in when you’re sick. It’s your job for life to be a good parent, a kind, loving and supportive parent.