Best of Both Worlds podcast: Raising kids who are poised to be ‘grown and flown’

Sarah and I appreciate all the feedback we’ve gotten from podcast listeners over the last two years. Numerous listeners have pointed out that while we’ve covered breastfeeding and finding childcare, our content for listeners with older children has been a bit thin. Partly that’s because our families are on the younger side, though this is increasingly less the case. As more of my kids transition into the tween/teen years I’m definitely interested in learning more about this topic as well.

So we were thrilled to welcome Lisa Heffernan to the program today. Lisa, a mom of three grown children, is the co-founder with Mary Dell Harrington of the Grown and Flown community. This online community (with a very active Facebook presence) provides a place for parents of teens, college students, and young adults to share strategies and support. Lisa and Mary Dell are the co-authors of the new book — out today! — called Grown and Flown, which collects much of this advice in one place.

This was a fascinating conversation. I value independence a lot. I occasionally bump into the reality that these expectations have changed. For instance, I did a FB Live chat with the Grown and Flown community this summer. Lisa wanted me to talk about time management, and my first assumption was that we’d do a talk on reclaiming personal time after kids go off to college or something like that. But Lisa informed me that people would be far more interested in a session on how to help adolescents learn time management. (So that’s what I did).

Lisa asserts that adolescence is different enough today to make a lot of parents’ experiences through their own adolescences not-terribly relevant. She notes that the model many of us grew up with — at age 18 you move far away from family and reduce communication to one phone call a week — is something of a historical aberration. In any case, today’s teens tend to want and expect a much closer relationship with their families. And given that they engage in far less risky behavior than adolescents did in the past, there may be something to be said for this, even if I find the stories of parents helping with job applications laughable.

We talked about some of the useful advice from the book, such as a list of ways to connect with a teen who is no longer speaking with you. There’s another great list on what to say (and do) with a teen whose heart is breaking — whether for romantic reasons, or because of losing a friend, getting cut from a team, not getting into a first (or second…) choice college, etc.

We also addressed that big elephant in the room: college admissions. Anyone following the news for the past few months (or really, the past decade…) knows that this has become increasingly crazy. If celebrities are paying thousands of dollars to bribe coaches to pass their kids off as recruited athletes, clearly the rest of us should be thinking about this from kindergarten on, right?

In a word…no. Lisa says that saving for college can start early, if this is something your family can take on, financially, around other priorities (like retirement). But for an adolescent, up until junior year, the only thing they should be doing is performing as well as they can at school and participating deeply in the handful of activities they find most meaningful. These are good things in their own right, and they are also what the vast majority of college admissions offices care most about anyway. A key reason to delay any official admissions prep until junior year is that once it becomes a family issue, it will never stop. (And in case you’re wondering, Lisa sent her children to good colleges!)

In the opener, Sarah and I reminisce about our own college applications (and an ego-deflating comment my 9-year-old recently made to me…whoa!). In the Q&A we address a question from a listener concerned about daycare costs.

I really enjoyed this episode — Lisa is a total pro at interviews — so please give it a listen, and let us know what you think!

8 thoughts on “Best of Both Worlds podcast: Raising kids who are poised to be ‘grown and flown’

  1. Loved this whole episode, especially the intro – such a walk down memory lane!

    In 1998 I visited a bunch of colleges by myself and managed my own college application process, including financial aid. Like you, Laura, I wrote the checks for application fees from my own account, paid for by an after school job at a bagel shop. (AP tests, too!)

    In September 1999 I headed off to Dartmouth. My parents put me on a plane in Cleveland and said “see you at Thanksgiving!” I arrived on campus totally solo, spent the first night at a hotel alone (is that even allowed anymore?), and moved myself into the dorm the next day. I picked up my grape iMac by myself, bought a mini fridge by myself (no Amazon delivery!), and called home on Sunday nights for about 15 minutes – from a land line!

    Looking at my kids now, this scenario sounds ridiculous!

  2. This episode was really wonderful. I have been waiting for content on older children and I loved it! And, I am listening to this from the other side of the continent! Despite the culture being so different and daily lives and challenges being different, there is still so much of common approaches that would work in bringing up older children!

  3. Great episode! My oldest is only 13 but I will definitely be checking out book. Fun coincidence: I listened to this while running in my Wisconsin neighborhood. I passed an older man out walking and wearing a Princeton t-shirt. I had to fight the urge to recommend the beginning of the episode to him too!

  4. Lisa has a great radio/podcast voice. She comes off very warm! Great interview! Our son is 18 months so this is a long ways off for us but it was still interesting to listen to and think about.

    I also especially enjoyed your walk down memory lane in the beginning. I was also a very independent child. I don’t remember getting help from my parents when it came to admissions stuff, etc. I think I did most of my college visits on my own, too, as I had a license and I was visiting places within 2 hours. But I was 1 of 5 kids and my parents both worked so I don’t think they had time to do tours with me honestly… I only applied to one school – the state university where I went. My parents said I could go anywhere but I would be paying for it so I needed to take that into consideration so I went with a larger state school. I’m trying to remember when/how often I called my parents. I am pretty sure it was not weekly. I didn’t have a mobile phone until my senior year so texting didn’t happen either. I think because I was the 4th child, my parents weren’t super sad about me leaving and maybe didn’t have high expectations of me calling often? I talked about this with my mom recently and she said she struggled with the oldest and youngest but was so used to it with the middle 3 kids. I remember being busy, though, as I took a full load of classes and worked, sometimes up to 30+ hours/week. Now that I’m a parent, it’s hard to imagine barely hearing from my child… as an adult I have not been great about calling my parents but we keep in touch through email/text. Now I try to call/facetime them weekly as they love seeing our son. All that is to say that I can see what Lisa was saying about the frequency of communication being different for kids today v when we were going to college. I guess I was just super independent and maybe a bit careless about calling my parents. Eeks. I am really close to them, though, so it’s not a reflection of our relationship…… but our son better call us when he’s in college. ha!

  5. I also found this episode really interesting and timely as my 19 year old is off to university for the first time next weekend. I don’t think the reality of what this will mean for us and our 15 year old daughter left at home has really hit home yet. I am 55 now and went to Oxford University in 1982! There were 3 pay phones in college for 180 students. We used to queue up on Sunday evenings to feed coins in for a very short call home. There was no internet, no mobile phones and my mum used to write to me most weeks, but she was a busy teacher. I was only 30 miles away but went home perhaps once a term. No question of me living at home. And my mum in her turn was very unusual as she went to university in 1957. She went by train on her own having sent her trunk and bike on ahead as advanced luggage. I’m sure you can’t do that now. The first thing she bought herself was a pair of trousers as her father did not believe in women wearing trousers, although he was hugely supportive of his clever daughter going to university at a time when very few women did. How times change. Thanks for the link to Grown and Flown which I am sure will be very useful.

  6. I enjoyed the podcast but I disagree with the statement that our generation (I graduated high school in 1997) is historical aberration. The current generation is the actual aberration as a result of constant technology monitoring and communication that is now available and used in child rearing. Let’s face it, kids have been leaving home for work since the industrial revolution, with very little contact after they left because it wasn’t possible. Looking at my own family, my great grandparents (male and female) went abroad to medical university (yes, my great grandmother was a doctor married to doctor in 1920s). My grandparents (male and female) left home at 18 to fight in WW2. My mom stayed home for college, but my dad left home at 17 on a trade ship and traveled around the world. I took care of my entire college admissions process and other logistics when I moved myself to US from Europe at age 18, and while my parents would have wished me to stay closer, they were not surprised.
    I have been teaching college for 10 years now. A lot of my students are international students who still do the same thing, getting themselves into school abroad and living independently in a foreign country. A lot of my students are also first generation college students who went through the admissions process on their own and are working to pay their way through school. They might be living at home but they are absolutely independent. I think that our opinion of what the “default” student is needs to change. There are still a lot of upper middle class high school students who are guided through the admissions process by their parents and go straight to four year institution where they are financially supported by their parents through graduation, but that’s by no means the only option or even the most common option at some Universities anymore.
    The lack of independence by “traditional” students is a new development that needs to change. Students who had everything arranged for them will expect their instructors to “fix” things when they get bad grades, and take care of their paperwork when they need to drop the class, or will break down crying when they get bad feedback or will even call their parents to argue about their grades (all true stories I experienced in the last 2 years, but not 10 years ago when I started teaching). I’m also a working professional and I’m often asked to recommend my students for internships and entry level positions and the number one quality every employer wants to see is being a “self starter”. I don’t have kids of my own but I wish all the best for my students and the best thing their parents can do for them is to teach them that independence that my (not aberrational) generation had. They will need it.

  7. My comment is for the Q&A person: I feel your pain on the cost of childcare! My husband especially, gripes every time we review our tight budget and see that just after our mortgage and above anything else is that childcare line! I know it’s an investment in the future, but it’s a big number that keeps us pinching pennies everywhere else. I understand it’s temporary, but it’s still a huge number. I also understood she may be using her salary as a reference point to how much it is and not that it is HER salary. My husband and I do this all the time with his salary as it is the lesser one and the one closer to the amount of our childcare. Not that it’s almost as much as HIS salary, just that it’s as much as one of the salaries of a professional couple.

    1. @Kristin – thanks for giving this alternate explanation – we can complain about something being high without jumping to the conclusion that this is a patriarchal narrative for why women shouldn’t work. As you note, in your family, it’s your husband’s salary that’s closer to the amount.
      I prefer dividing the number in half when I compare against what I make. Just as you’re roommates sharing a house (and its expense), you’re people sharing another expense.

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