"All by myself " is an issue best addressed before kindergarten. It's a huge developmental step. When children feel unsure and want help, it's good to ask leading questions that allow them to work out their own solutions.
I keep reading about "helicopter parents" swooping in to micromanage problems for their college students, most recently in Mirage Magazine, volume 26, number 1, fall 2007 , the University of New Mexico alumni publication. Parents who are involved with their college kids on a daily basis resemble VTOL aircraft even more than helicopters. Vertical Takeoff/Landing aircraft are "transformers", shifting shapes to drop straight down into a problem, and occasionally lift back up out of it. Parents project the fx message that despite their own job responsibilities and personal activities, they are instantly available to morph into The Amazing Fixer and descend into any difficulty for their college student.
What does that tell the college-age child?
- You can't make decisions.
- You can't solve problems.
- You can't communicate effectively with teachers, advisors, or dorm staff.
- You can't find your own interests, talents, passions, or bliss.
- You can't take care of yourself when you have a cold.
- You don't have enough sense to know you should go to Student Health.
- You can't learn from your mistakes.
- You can't allow yourself to make mistakes.
- You can't manage money.
- You can't plan long-range.
- You can't decide if a person is a true friend.
- You can't remember to put a sheet of "Bounce" into each dryer load.
- You can't trust your own gut.
On the cover of the alumni magazine there's a very handsome photo of dramatic clouds and the ladder down into a kiva. The poster will be available for sale soon, as part of the Lobo homecoming this fall. I love the idea that going to college is like climbing the ladder into the kiva. It is a developmental step, same as the preschooler demanding to do something "all by myself". The kiva signifies greater self-awareness and self-confidence. It acknowledges accepting guidance from elders and shaman, as well as parents. It symbolizes community, friendship, and responsibility. Most of all, it represents wholeness and health. Everything we wish for our children. We just have to let them descend the kiva ladder alone.
© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder