The school year has begun…again. September reminds us that with each passing year, the segue into fall is a mix of hope and bittersweet. We reflect upon our own school days and reminisce in our minds about the friendships that have come and gone and how very quickly the passage of time can be. For those who are sending children off to college or holding onto each fleeting second of their child’s last year of high school, knowing that this is the year they kiss them goodbye…the best advice to be offered is-take a breathe. As a parent, I urge you to step back and don’t get caught up in the frenzy that the last year of high school has begun to symbolize. The Common Application will be completed, the essays will be finalized, and the last scores of SAT’s will be sent in a timely fashion. While all of these momentous endeavors will be completed, do not forget the little things that are overlooked in the frenzy. This, in many respects, will be a transition-a change in your family dynamics. Your relationship with your child is evolving and while cognitively you have accepted that this day would come, emotionally it is very difficult to witness the slow metamorphosis.
If you have a child who has just entered college, carefully walk the tightrope that has been walked by many before you… gingerly. One minute your newly minted adult loves you and the next minute they love you not-so-much. They are stretching the boundaries of parent and child, yet trying to resolve their own struggles with independence. While it is fine when they call and text you, one text too many from mom and dad could have them insinuating that you are overstepping your boundaries. If you leave communication up to them, there are times you can be accused of being too aloof and apathetic. So how is a parent to win? Everything in moderation. If you have the kind of relationship where you can discuss your expectations for keeping in touch and make clear any deal breakers, that will give you peace of mind. As an example, a recent client was discussing that either her child or her must communicate with the other on a daily basis- at least once. Her rationale…if something should happen and her child needs her, how would she know? Just because your child hits the ripe old age of 18, that does not mean that they should not have some degree of accountability. In the spirit of accountability, parents should be aware of FERPA and HIPPA laws. When your child becomes of adult age, it is wise to have them sign disclosures with their college allowing you to communicate with them should the need arise. This is an important step should they become hospitalized, have mental health issues, or be in need of parental intervention of some sort. If both of you do not take this step, you can become paralyzed as a parent to help your child in the future. It would also be prudent to discuss this with a family attorney and have the proper paperwork drawn up and held by the attorneys office, as well. Below is a link that could prove useful.
Additionally, sending a child to college is in many ways letting go of the reins. Parents will ultimately feel a slow degree of inertia through senior year of high school, the first year of college proves more palpable. They want to learn to do things on their own , yet don’t want your help; they want you to keep in touch, but on their terms; they expect you to ask about their new friends or significant others , but not pry- remember the tightrope mentioned before? It only gets more tenuous when they first arrive home for their first long break from school and the freedom they encountered on campus makes home seem a bit stifling to them. While you can’t wait to give them big hugs and and ask all about everything, they just want to eat, sleep, and have their privacy. Feeling a loss of freedom, a bit stagnant and the ever present “ I have to inform you of my comings and goings,” puts a strain on even the best of parent/child relationships.
Keep lines of communication open, try not to be supersensitive to their insensitivity, and be mindful that even though your children are considered adults in the eyes of the law, they are still your children and you have every right to be concerned, be involved, love and be loved.
Oh…and don’t forget those care packages and family visits….every once and a while, every once and awhile.
The Collegeologist is an independent college consultation practice which simplifies the college process for students and parents in the Farmington Valley area. Located at 395 West Avon Road in Avon (Across from All-Star Driver). Tel. 860-673-1500 www.thecollegeologist.com Call for a complimentary consultation. Office visits, email & Skype are available. Like the Collegeologist on FB and follow us on twitter @thecollegeologist.
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