So, I’ve been doing some reading and researching on how or what a parent is suppose to do when their child gets into dental school. There are lots of “how-to” guides on navigating through 4 years of an undergraduate degree, when to take the dental aptitude test, when to file your admissions paperwork, how to interview…. all things I was able to assist in the decision process and prep work needed to complete whichever task was at hand. What about after the acceptance letter comes and the move to the new school is complete? If you don’t have a dental background, suddenly your help is limited. My research on what I’m suppose to do now was not fruitful.
Luckily for me, I do have a dental background yet still found that my help wasn’t needed as much as I thought. During undergraduate school, I was helping study, helping with financial decisions… FAFSA, PHEAA, grants, scholarships, housing. Checking in to make sure he had what he needed to stay on track to reach his goal. Reminding him every so often of what the goal is and what it takes to get there. Once the goal was reached, new goals were set that didn’t have much to do with me anymore. Oh sure, Dad can I have some money, Dad can you help me move into my new place, that kind of thing didn’t change. Every parent out there is thinking, “well, that part never changes” and they would be right. But my role changed from being an active participant to an advice giver when needed and a cheerleader as often as that role came around.
During the dental school years, I would receive calls as an update about what’s going on. What teachers he was enjoying, which ones were going to be issues, he would ask my thoughts on certain subjects to just confirm what he was being taught was what was going on in “real life dentistry”. I was happy for those calls, he made it seem like I was still involved, yet I knew the days of active parenting were closed.
So, I would listen, remind him that everything works out for the best when hard work is behind it. The best advice I gave was “make responsible choices”. That’s the role parent’s find themselves in at this stage in their child’s life, sounding board with a positive spin.
My son is now in his final months of dental school. I went to visit with him this past Labor Day weekend. There stood a young man with whom I now stand shoulder to shoulder and eye to eye, confident with a sense of self that all parents would pat themselves on the back of seeing it as a job well done. A feeling of “where did the time go” crept into me, and then eased when he asked me to pick up the tab for pizza. “I still have a role” I thought to myself, yet realized that my job of guiding and providing was over and I was truly in the role of now conferring and assisting with his life decisions. His next life decision is a big one, where to go to practice in the profession in which he chose. I hope that he decides to come home
to practice, yet I know that my role is to confer and assist in the decision that he makes.
So, to the parents out there with kids going into advanced education, my advice is this:
Ready yourself for a role change from active parent to an enthusiastic cheerleader that can
listen, confer and assist when needed.