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Ah yes, you’ve raised them from infancy. If you’re a mom, you might have even suckled them at your breast. You were there when they took their first baby steps and said their first words. You bathed them and taught them how to use a toilet. You enforced the rules during playtime and taught them how to get along with others. You kissed away their boo-boo’s and told the same bedtime stories over and over. You checked for monsters under the bed or that were hidden away in closets. As they got older, you planned countless birthday and graduation parties. You attended all manner of school plays and sporting events and the hours spent chauffeuring them around can’t even begin to be counted. You cooked their meals, did their laundry, made their beds and massaged their broken egos.

But now as they’ve gotten older and your empty nest syndrome is about to kick in you have to ask yourself when is it time to let go? When is it time for little Johnny or little Suzie to sprout some wings of their own and leave the protection of hearth and home?

For some parents, the time seems to be never.

In recent years a phenomena known as “helicopter parenting” has been discovered on college campuses and universities throughout the country. Many folks attribute this to the advances made in technology and communication and with the access and affordability of cell phones, they’ve often been referred to as the world’s longest umbilical cord.

So, how do you know if you’re on the verge of becoming an overprotective, growth stunting buttinski who has either a spare room or is willing to fix up your basement so your offspring has a place to crash after they graduate from college and try to enter the workforce?

How many times a day do you try and speak to them? Do you call just to see if they brushed their teeth or to find out what they had for breakfast, lunch or dinner or what they watched on tv last night? If you find yourself doing that sort of thing, it might be time to back off.

Do you find yourself calling the school itself? Sure, you might be footing the bill but that doesn’t give you the right to complain to them just because your kid isn’t doing the homework or showing up for class.

How many decisions are you making for your kid? Even though I never attended college myself I’ve always thought about it as a time when you were supposed to figure out for yourself what you wanted to be in the world. If mom or pop is making all the decisions about what courses to take or what career path to embark on, chances are the kid won’t discover his or her true strengths or calling and will regret their decision or lack of it later in life.

Along those lines some parents have even gone as far as to actually write term papers and do homework assignments on behalf of their kids. I don’t know how much that benefits them when it’s time to take a test but since in the parents’ eyes “failure is not an option” they feel obligated to do so.

In closing we all want our kids to do well. It’s natural to feel disappointment when they don’t succeed or do as well as they should, just don’t go overboard and do the work for them. If you find yourself falling into that trap, I’m willing to bet they’ll still be living under your roof and eating your food well into their thirties and possibly even their forties and wondering just where they went wrong. I don’t think that’s something you’d be proud of when discussing them with the neighbors.

Instead, let them learn from their mistakes. Offer your sage wisdoms and advice when you have to but let them learn that there are consequences to their actions. In the long run, you’ll all be better off.

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