An interesting college interview question presented itself to my son when Harvard wanted to know how old he was when he made his first adult-level contribution to an activity or work experience. It is an important question to think about, not because Harvard asked it, but because kids who live in the real world doing adult things gain valuable skills sets and lead more interesting lives, both to themselves and to others.
While some might consider my family situation to be unusual, you would be surprised how many of my private clients have similar homes and philosophies. My children had one “kid” activity each (scouting and orchestra), but other than that, they pretty much hung out with adults. They pursued mentoring relationships with adults in science and music. They served side by side with adults in church and community events. They had paid positions doing adult jobs. They organized events that many grownups would never have attempted.
Those kinds of experiences molded them, but more importantly it changed them. Once a kid has done something huge, conquering the next challenge doesn’t seem as hard. I think that is why the question was posed. Top tier colleges are tough. The inexperienced won’t survive there. Kids who can’t advocate for themselves will get lost in the shuffle. And, students who only do regular “kid” things just honestly aren’t that interesting and don’t contribute much to an intellectual campus.
Those of you who value passing your faith to your children will appreciate the findings of Notre Dame sociologist, Christian Smith, who adds yet another reason for kids having adult friendships. He found that those teens who retained and grew in their faith through young adulthood were most significantly influenced by their parents. But, there was a crucial second tier – they had friendships with adults to whom they could turn to for advice and support. These friends encouraged the kids and spoke into their lives. Parents of these religiously serious kids tended to know more of the second-tier adults in their student’s world and to communicate with them. Thus, there is a wide circle of support and reinforcement. I leaned on this circle when my kids were finding their way into adulthood. Whether it was an academic problem, a relationship issue, career advice, a spiritual question, or just another set of eyes on the normal teenage issues, my children’s adult friends willingly shared their love and wisdom to help my kids navigate through the twists and turns of life.
Living in the adult world has many benefits for kids and can help them grow into adulthood much more smoothly than is the case for teens having no support but other kids who are as confused as they are.
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