It is always an anxious time when kids are preparing to leave the nest, and perhaps particularly so for parents who tend to be watchful and cosset their youngsters.
We have child psychologists to thank for the phrase “helicopter parents”.
For years, society has labelled parents as such if they seem too caring, too protective, too controlling and always circling above their children to make sure everything is all right.
What happens though when that generation of youngsters prepares to start out on their adult lives?
Will the process of becoming independent be different for children whose parents took such great pains to help manage their lives?
The umbilical cord may have been cut some 20 years ago, but a link has to be cut again at this stage as kids learn to stand on their own two feet, make their own decisions and take responsibility for them.
This may be tough if their parents don’t want to let go of the bond.
There has been an increase in terms of parents’ fears concerning their children’s future, according to Claus Koch, a psychologist specialising in the bonds between parents and children.
These days, more than in the past, parents want to protect their youngsters from danger.
They also tend to nudge them towards achievements.
But not all of the caring, cautious parents from this generation deserve the “helicopter” label, says Koch.
He says what counts for a child’s development is that they get a sense of safety, security and recognition, so that they can develop into independent and responsible adults.
“Parents need to focus on how to empower their child to make their own decisions,” says Mirjam Uchronski, a student advisor at a university in Munich, Germany.
The students she sees are not fundamentally more indecisive, but she says it’s clear that some are less mature as they have spent less time at high school.
“They often don’t know as much about themselves yet.
“But there are just as many for whom it is clear from childhood that they will one day work as a doctor, for example.”
The Munich student advisory service also provides information sessions for parents, although they don’t want to be telling parents to intervene in terms of what subject their kid pursues.
“It’s more about explaining how studying works nowadays and where to get information,” Uchronski explains.
After all, in the past, there were not so many options, so that is a big change as far as parents are concerned.
Plus “higher education works differently to when they started out as youngsters”.
Parents reviewing their own lecture notes taken 30 years ago won’t give them anything like a realistic idea of how it is to study, say engineering, now.
These days, it’s also less easy to just drop in and take a look at what other departments are doing.
In this time of transition, the best thing that parents can do to support their children is to be prepared to listen and discuss things, says Uchronski.
“After all, for young people, they are the ones who know them best and can help them find out more about themselves.”
Things become more difficult when parents project their own worries onto their children and don’t trust them to take charge of their own lives.
“If you constantly monitor children and young people, they don’t learn to take responsibility for themselves and take care of themselves,” says Koch.
Excessive control makes them feel insecure and young people may conclude that the world is a dangerous place, if they are constantly being monitored.
Meanwhile, there is also a great deal of discussion about the needs and wants of Generation Z – the label attached to young people born around the turn of the millennium.
Susanne Böhlich, a human resources professor at IU International University, focuses on what this group thinks and hopes for in a career.
“Generation Z attaches great importance to predictability and security,” she says.
They are also realistic about what is feasible.
Is it because their parents are overprotective?
Maybe, Böhlich says.
But bear in mind too all that these young people have encountered so far, from the climate crisis to the Covid-19 pandemic, she says.
“We’re all longing for things to be easier to plan at the moment.
“It will be exciting to see how the generations’ attitude to life changes as a result of the pandemic.” – By Eva Dignös/dpa