Seven Responsibilities Parents Have Today (That Our Parents Didn’t)

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By Katherine Smith

familywalk2Parenting doesn’t just seem harder these days; it is harder. If you’re a new parent now, chances are you grew up in the 1980s, when “latchkey kid” was still a common term and nobody had yet heard of “cyberbullying.” Now, us parents have a whole host of new responsibilities that our own parents never had to contemplate!

Do any of these sound familiar?

Here are seven big responsibilities we have to our kids, that our own parents never had to think about.

1. Paying for college. This is the big one, right? Our parents didn’t have to take out student loans, we’re still paying off our own loans, and we’re going to make sure our kids have as few loans as possible. That means, for some of us, starting 529 plans before our kids are even born.

2. Preschool and elementary school admissions You know what else we do before our kids are even born? Start putting them on waiting lists for preschools. Our parents just sent us to the preschool down the block; we have to figure out which neighborhood public, private, or charter school is best for our families, and how to negotiate the admissions process to make sure our children get one of the limited slots.

3. Playdates. The word “playdate” was first coined in 1984, but it wasn’t until the next decade or so that it became the predominant form of entertaining young children. Now it is our responsibility as parents to organize, chauffeur, and entertain our kids during one-on-one “playdates” with other families — a far cry from sending a group of kids out into the backyard and telling them not to come in until dinner.

familywalk24. Making sure our kids aren’t left alone — ever. In the last 20 years, kids who walked to school or met friends at the local park were practicing independence. Now, if you let your kids play in the park alone, you might get a police officer knocking on your door. I support “free range” kids, but my local ordinances make it very hard for me to give them the independence I think they need. It makes sense that we’re no longer hanging keys around kids’ necks and teaching them to microwave their own after-school snacks, but I don’t like that I’m not allowed to let my two kids walk to school by themselves. Of course, I could have it worse off — some schools don’t even allow children to walk from the school building to their parent’s car un-escorted!

5. Using the internet. Here’s a challenge: Teaching kids how to behave on social media without bullying each other or posting information they may later regret. Teaching kids how to use the internet responsibly, without falling prey to scammers or malware pushers. Luckily, parents get a bit of help in this area. For their Titanium product, Trend Micro internet security notes that multiple device protection is the best way to detect phishing threats.

6. Protecting the environment. The first Earth Day was in 1970, right before a lot of us new parents were born. I don’t remember my parents ever talking to me about recycling or composting. Now, recycling is the law in many states, and it is our job as parents to prepare our children to treat the earth as a non-renewable resource.

7. Preparing for our own retirement. Many of us, including my family, are part of the “sandwich generation.” Now, I’m thinking about my own kids. As life expectancies grow, I want to make sure I’m not a burden on my children after I retire, and I want to set aside enough money for my own medical care in old age.

What about you? What responsibilities do you have to your children, that your own parents did not have?