Cell phones are great and let us keep in touch like never before. But for many parents they have become leashes to help them monitor and control their children. While the parents when they were teenagers would just need to call home if they were going to be home after curfew or if their plans changed, many parents today check in with their kids constantly. Others use content monitoring apps and even tracking software to keep tabs on their kids. This technology has changed how much knowledge parents now expect to have when it comes to their children, where they are, and what they are doing. This has created a generation of over controlling parents which can extend into young adulthood or further for the kids.
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Perhaps you’ve just moved to your dorm or your first place and have noticed that your parents are texting a bit too much. It isn’t that you want to shut them out of your life, but maybe they’re always in your business and get freaked out if you don’t text back within a few minutes. You worry that if you decide to turn off your phone for the weekend, they or the police might be at your door to check on you. This is not the way it was before cell phones or the way they grew up. This is the effect of being able to contact anyone all the time leading to your parents getting used to being able to check on you all the time.
Obviously one of the things you should do if your parents are over involved in your life is to set healthy boundaries as described in the book, Boundaries, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. But along with having a talk with Mom and Dad, there are some things that any adult should do that will help your parents stop worrying. While they would probably be happy to have you stay in their home for the rest of their lives, they probably know that you need to go out and start your own life. The fact is, they would probably be happy to not need to worry about you. They just can’t help themselves. Here are things that will help your parents stop worrying if you don’t text them back within the hour.
Help them know no news is good news
One of your parent’s fears is that you’ll be lying in a ditch somewhere bleeding to death and they won’t know it. I’m not sure why there are all of these ditches all over that people keep falling into, but this is a worry that has been passed from generation to generation. Receiving a text from you helps your parents know that you aren’t bleeding in a ditch, but this requires that you respond to their texts quickly.
To solve this problem, turn things around and turn it from your parents needing constant assurances that you’re all right to assurances that if something bad happens, they’ll hear about it. To do this, get a business card (one of your own or one from somewhere like your doctor’s office, school, parents, etc… and write on the back:
“In case of emergency, contact:”
and then write your parent’s names and phone numbers. Perhaps also include numbers for siblings, grandparents, and others who you’d want contacted if your parents weren’t available to get the call. Place this card in your wallet with your ID. That way, if you were in an accident or something, the police or paramedics would find it when they were checking to see who you were and know who to contact. Your parents would then know that as long as they didn’t get a call, you’re probably not lying in a ditch.
As you get older, keep up the practice of keeping the emergency contact card but add your spouse, siblings, or others in your life who should be called if something happens to you. Once you’re really old, this might be one or more of your own children.
Turn your phone from a crutch to a tool
Another issue with cell phones (they really are the source of a lot of problems) is that they do way too many things. You use them to text, email, get directions, pay your bills, find stores, buy things, and a slew of other things. Really the thing you probably use your phone for the least is calling people. This may be convenient, but it can make your phone really critical to your life and an emergency if something happens to it.
This can bring grief to your parents since simply misplacing your phone or dropping it in a puddle of water could result in you being lost somewhere without the ability to call them for help. They may worry if they don’t hear from you that you may be wandering the streets asking for spare change for meals.
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The best way to eliminate this fear is to not let your phone be a crutch. Sure, use it to make your life easier, but be able to get along without it for a period of time if you need to. This means:
- Learning your city so that you can get to the places you go most without needing to get directions from your phone. The easiest way to do this is to study the map provided before you go and picture your route before you start. After a while you’ll learn where certain things are relative to other places you go often. Then, as you drive, try to figure out when you’re going to turn before the GPS app tells you to. Also, pay attention to stores and landmarks along the way. Like if you make a turn at a Walgreens (which you’ll almost always do), make a note of that and then look for the store on the way back. Once you’ve done this once or twice, try to go on your own without your phone, only pulling it out if you get lost.
- Learning how to get to your parent’s house from your home (assuming they live in another city) without a map. This means spending some time looking at a highway map or Google maps and seeing where your town is relative to where you grew up and the major cities along the way. Each time you go back for a visit, take note of the cities you travel through and the highways you take. You’ll often find that you just take two or three highways even if you are travelling a thousand miles or more. Do this, and your parents will know that you could always find your way home without a phone if needed.
- Developing ways to make calls and contact people without your phone. Back when there were payphones on every corner and in every restaurant, this was easy. Today it is a lot tougher because there are no pay phones anymore. Luckily, almost everyone around you has a phone with them and realize that many would be willing to lend you their phone or make a call for you if it were somewhat of an emergency. You can also get to know your neighbors well enough that they might call your parents or others for you if your phone went kaput. Also, have backup plans like email from a computer.
- Having a paper address book so that you have the contact info for friends and family should you lose the ability to use your address book on your phone. Memorize those for your parents and other critical numbers by calling them from the keypad once in a while. Then your parents will know that you’ll know how to contact them if needed.
- Having some cash, emergency credit cards, and maybe a few paper checks in case your main credit or debit car stops working and your phone isn’t working. Carry a little cash and an extra card with you in case you have an issue when you’re not at home.
- Having the number for a good towing company (or AAA) and an auto repair place that you trust with you in your car on paper. This means that you’ll be able to call for a tow should you break down somewhere. If you have the number for the shop, they may work with a towing company and be able to get you towed for a discount or for free if you come to their shop.
- Having a plan to replace your phone, perhaps with a temporary phone for a period of time, should you lose yours or it stops working. Phone plans may make it difficult to replace a phone quickly since you may need to travel somewhere to pay off the old one before you can get another, so talk to your provider ahead of time to see what would be needed and know where you can get a burner phone as a spare in a pinch.
Build your tribe
One of your parent’s worries is probably that should something happen, you’ll not have anyone to help, so they need to be ready to jump in. Everyone needs help at some points in their lives. You can eliminate this fear by building up a network of people around you who you can call if needed for help. You should have a few people you could call if you were stuck on the side of the road, need a ride in for work, needed to a ride to or from the hospital, or even just needed help moving things or doing things that require more than one person. You may have a few people who become really good friends, but you may also have some people who you help and who help you in return. You just need to meet people, exchange contact information, and get together now and then. Getting some contacts from your school or work is also a way to build your tribe.
Then, when things do happen, see if you can get your friends to help instead of calling your parents. Realize that your parents will still be there, ready to help if needed (and are always ready to give advice), but see if you can get through things without their help. Also, be ready to help your friends out with their issues.
Still check in some times
Even if your parents know that you can take care of things, they’ll still want to hear from you. Send them a text or, gasp, give them a call once in a while to let them know how things are going and that you’re doing OK. And plan on sending a safe arrival text when you head back to your place when you come out for a visit. No matter how long you’ve been away from home and how many trips you take, your parents will probably still want to get a text when you get home safe.
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Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning or tax advice. It gives general information on investment strategy, picking stocks, and generally managing money to build wealth. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. Tax advice should be sought from a CPA. All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.