When children start finding their “thing” — the thing that they are good at and brings them joy — for a moment it feels as if our job as parents is complete. This isn’t true at all. Now a new fear sets in. Are they going to give up? What if they fail? Are they going to go to college? Get scholarships? Is enough saved? What if they throw it all away for a girlfriend or boyfriend? What if…What if…What if….fill in the blank.
My son has played football since he was in fourth grade. It was the first team sport where he gained confidence and it grabbed him. He has not considered doing any other sport since. My daughter loves art, singing and theater. She went through pre-teen years afraid to get up on stage and I almost thought she had quit. She just completed the musical “Annie” as one of the orphans. When it was over, she said to me “I can’t wait until the next one!” My heart exploded! She’s going to Broadway!
My son is finishing his junior year of high school and suddenly it’s time to look at college. He wants to play football which is a whole new set of search requirements. We have to be realistic about where he could play. A new phase and new level of stress! Especially when academically, he struggles. I want him to be able to play football in college and be a successful student. Fear begins to take over my thoughts that he won’t be able to do all of this. I have started looking up coaches at different schools. I resist the urge to start emailing. He has to do it! I don’t think it would go over well if “Mom” is sending out interest letters. But this is what we want to do, right?! I must resist!
It is an entirely new world for me. Not only do we need to research and visit schools, we have to consider what athletic division they are, the recruitment process, who to contact, football camps, and so much more. This is my first experience with all this.
The hardest part? He needs to do this. He has to reach out and network, keep his grades up, take the ACT/SAT, and be a stellar football player. This is so much to put on a 16-year-old!! I cannot do it for him but how do I balance this?
For both of them and for any teenager, our jobs are never done as parents. It is just a new set of standards we have to focus on. Hopefully by now we have instilled manners, taught them how to treat people, instilled a spiritual connection, and supported them in being generally well-rounded and good people. Now it is doing what we can but let go of what they have to do for themselves. This is so much harder to do than it sounds.
I reel myself back in and remember what I have learned over the years. Some of the same principles apply to teenagers, young adults as they do to a 6-year-old.
I remember to emphasize the effort and progress my children make. This can help them stay motivated and build resilience in the face of challenges and setbacks.
I encourage them to build relationships with mentors, coaches or peers who share their interests. Having a supportive community can help them stay committed and motivated to pursue their passion. This is so important. I didn’t understand this until well into adulthood. People enjoy helping other people. Asking for help is not weak, it is learning. Someday the favor can be returned.
As much as they don’t want to hear it, I remind them to embrace challenges and view failure as an opportunity to learn and grow. A growth mindset can help them develop resilience and perseverance in the face of obstacles.
We discuss time management. I’m a little hypocritical here because I struggle with this. However, there is nothing wrong with explaining my own struggle to help them avoid it! It’s important to talk about balance and priorities. I want them to pursue their passion yet also meet other obligations and goals. Eye rolls and “I know Mom!” are standard responses.
It is a difficult time, but it is an exciting time. Ultimately, I know they will be okay. We will get through the college search process with my son and then my daughter will be on deck. I don’t know if they both will attend a full four-year college, and that’s okay. As long as they are finding their thing and making the best life they can out of it, I will be grateful.