Ep 66: Grown and Flown and Still Parenting

Lisa Heffernan, co-founder and author of Grown & Flown, shares her vast knowledge on parenting during the late-teens and even early 20s. Our Kids may be more grown up, but it doesn’t mean parents don’t still have an important role to play!

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Full show notes

The day will come when you have to drop off your child in their new room and go home without them. They’ll likely be smiling, waving as you depart, from their cozy new dorm room. It’s a surreal moment of mixed emotions to see your child grow up and start living on their own for the first time.

The process of letting your teen go on their own can be frightening for parents. The world is vast and chaotic, and leaving your child to figure things out is both a time of pride and fear. On college drop-off day, it’s normal for parents to experience both excitement and dread.

I have a lot of burning questions about this monumental moment.

How can families prepare for a teen to leave the nest?

Is it more important to teach teens about independence, or following the rules?

Will teens be in danger without parental supervision?

To get to the bottom of these questions, I interviewed Lisa Heffernan about control, the process of letting go, and finding a balance between it all as teens enter their own world.

Lisa is the co-author of Grown and Flown, which collects information, advice, and helpful tips from teen experts about teens leaving home. Lisa was a parent who found herself without any helpful information on parenting tips from the ages of 15-25. This caused her to start the blog called Grown and Flown with her co-founder and collaborator Mary Dell Harrington. The blog has received millions of page views since the opening, and spurned Lisa and her team to go further by creating a Facebook group which has grown to over 130,000+ members.

Today, Lisa helped answer everything about the art of letting go with hot topics such as helicopter parenting and monitoring your child’s grades. The trick, Lisa tells me, is to strike a balance between following rules and giving autonomy for your teen. Without being overprotective, here are a few of Lisa’s top insights and tips on creating a relationship that will guide your teen towards healthy choices and being grown and flown.

Helicopter Parenting

One of the most common parenting tropes today is the idea of a “helicopter parent,” who ties to control every minutia of their teen’s life. Lisa says that the concept of being a helicopter parent is so undesirable that many parents are fraught with anxiety over their actions because they don’t want to be seen as a helicopter parent. Helicopter parenting can be a huge roadblock in having your teen become grown and flown.

First, it is helpful to know what a helicopter parent is. Helicopter parenting would be returning to your teen’s dorm every week to clean and inspect their room. Or, another example of helicopter parenting would be to steer your child into a desired career field which will make them a lot of money over letting them choose a career on their own. Helicopter parenting is characterized by a parent’s overinvolvement in their child or teen’s life. By controlling your child down to the smallest level, teens aren’t able to form their own ideas about what they want to do or develop any sense of independence to become grown and flown.

When teens aren’t able to establish an independent identity, there is a risk that they will not understand how to function when they are grown and flown. This can make the transition to independent living much more challenging for teenagers than it would have been if they had an idea of who they were before going on their own. In the worst cases, a teen having an identity crisis while they are living on their own can result in dangerous situations for both parties if they are unprepared. That is why it is so important to nurture independence in the household, and to strike a balance between the two when it comes to raising your teen.

One tip to practice balancing independence and authority Lisa has identified is the oversight a parent maintains over the grades of their teenager. Technological advancements have allowed for student’s grades to be viewed on demand for parents instead of having to wait the entire semester to receive a report card. Many parents have access to their teen’s grades through the websites services that schools use to record this information, complete with their own password and login. Parents who slip into the “helicopter parent” mentality over their child’s academic performance might check their child’s grades daily, sometimes even twice or three times a day!

Monitoring Your Child’s Grades

I asked Lisa where here research has led her on the topic of monitoring grades, and parents can do this in a balanced manner. First, Lisa shared that it is important to keep an eye on how your teen is doing academically. If there are warning signs that your teen is struggling, then it is crucial to stay up-to-date on that information. However, parents do need to understand that they need to give their teen some form of autonomy over their grades and allow them to succeed or fail on their own.

An example of helicopter parenting your teen’s grades would be hovering over the parent portal, waiting all day to see what they got on their most recent exam. This is not the way for a parent to go about checking grades. A better tip for parents to demonstrate trust in their teen is to take a step back from grade monitoring. This will absolutely build the skillset to make your teen grown and flown.

On the other hand, don’t be an uninvolved parent. Being uninvolved in your teen’s grades would be forgetting to check on them, or blindly trusting your teen to report them to you. You want to give them autonomy, but at the same time parents shouldn’t be in a place where they can’t extend oversight to what their teens are doing. They are only teenagers, after all, and shouldn’t be expected to function as a grown and flown child.

One tip for parents who want to develop trust between teens and their grades is by giving them the ability to try and fail on their own. Set some ground rules! You could tell your teen that you will only check their grades once a month, simply to stay up to date on how they are doing. Or, you could give them the option to report their grades to you, without even looking through the parent portal.

By allowing your teen to practice accountability in their school life, you can help them achieve a better version of independent thought and allow them to build skills that will lead them to become grown and flown. Finding this balance between oversight and independence is challenging but is totally achievable for parents.

You Can Achieve Grown and Flown Balance!

Striking a balance between protection and independence extends into so many other areas of parenting as well. In the rest of the podcast, Lisa and I talk about achieving balance to prepare for the grown and flown days. Other topics include…
  • Parenting and tracking software
  • How to help your teen through heartbreak
  • Building a dialogue around alcohol
  • How to remember the big moments
Wow! Thank you so much to Lisa Heffernan for sharing her wonderful knowledge on parenting teens who are ready to get out into the world. Lisa’s book, Grown and Flown, is a great parenting tool for finding the middle ground when it’s time for your teen to start living on their own.

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Creators and Guests

Andy Earle
Andy Earle
Host of the Talking to Teens Podcast and founder of Write It Great
Grown and Flown
Grown and Flown
The #1 site and community for parents of tweens, teens and college students. College Admissions: Grown and Flown membership has admissions insight and answers.
Ep 66: Grown and Flown and Still Parenting
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