I love this guest post by fellow Gravity Imprint author Beth Schulman. It contains some great information about raising teenagers, and as my own kids get closer to college age, I can really relate! Many thanks to Beth for sharing this. There’s more info about her and her great new memoir, The Gold Mailbox, below.
My first born is eighteen years old. I somehow maintained my sanity during the early years of colic, potty training and tantrums. I got through the middle years of science projects and sleepovers, and in less than two months, I’ll be able to say I survived the rocky roads of adolescence. On June 5th, my son, the baby I had to put in the car to get to sleep, will be a high school graduate. I’d hoped the struggles of parenting would end there. He got into a good college and now my part is done, right? Wrong! I’d never imagined how stressful the transition to college would be- not for him, but for me!
There’s the anxiety of completing the FAFSA and having to wait several weeks before you know how much (if any) federal aid your son will get. The anxiety is doubled when you are divorced and are forced to communicate about finances with your non responsive ex, who is your ex due in large part to his inability to communicate (but that’s a whole other blog!) Then there are all the “hidden” costs of a college education- room, board, books, dorm accessories. All this, coupled with the fact that your son, who looks and occasionally even acts, like an adult, functions as if he’s in the secret service when it comes to sharing information. In college there are no newsletters sent home from the head of school keeping you up to date on all the important stuff. All the information is being sent directly to the student. Of course, this makes sense, since the student is the one who is registered at the University. But, the fact is, an eighteen year old brain, is not fully functioning. According to the National Institute of Mental Health:
“The parts of the brain responsible for more “top-down” control, controlling impulses, and planning ahead—the hallmarks of adult behavior—are among the last to mature… In key ways, the brain doesn’t look like that of an adult until the early 20s.”
With this in mind, here are two coping strategies I’ve adopted to help me survive this transitional time with my “almost” college kid:
- MAINTAIN SOLID RELATIONSHIPS WITH YOUR PARENTING PEERS.
I get most of my information from my friends who have kids going into college. It sometimes feels like detective work, but I’ve been able to piece together important information about the first year college experience, through my interactions with other parents. I recently learned there is a “university portal” that’s full of critical information, including deadlines for orientation and registration.
- MAINTAIN A SOLID RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR TEEN.
I recently saw a quote that said, “Raising a teenager is like nailing Jello to the wall.”
This really summed it up for me. My eighteen year old can watch TV for hours, but when it comes to sitting down and having a discussion with me, it’s like he’s got ants in his pants. He gives me a condescending nod and wave of his hand after two minutes and says, “I’ve got it, Mom.” I’ve learned to acknowledge that “he’s got it” and explain that my need to talk and process is my way of “getting it”. Scheduling these “chats” helps. If he knows in advance, we’ll be meeting at 1pm to talk he’s more likely to participate. Also, I’ve found it’s better to keep the conversation brief and to the point. It’s better to have lots of “little” meaningful conversations rather than having one long, drawn out discussion that could easily turn into battle.
To all my fellow parents of soon to be college students I say, “hang in there” because as we know from our parenting paths thus far, “this too shall pass.”
Ms. Beth Schulman is a mother, teacher and avid reader and writer. She graduated from The Pennsylvania State University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Individual and Family Studies, and from Cabrini College with a Master of Education Degree, with a focus on Early Childhood Education. She has been teaching elementary school students for over 20 years. Beth has devoted her life’s work to creating supportive, creative and literacy rich learning environments for young children. She has also worked with professional teachers at The University of Pennsylvania through The Penn Literacy Network (PLN) as an instructor and literacy coach since 1997. Beth lives in the Philadelphia area with her two teenage sons, James and Ian. The Gold Mailbox is her first book.
“This dazzling and moving memoir is a roller coaster of loss and transition, held together by the reminder that love and family run deeper than we ever imagine. Written in gorgeous prose, this ultimately uplifting tale will have you savoring every page.”
–Claire Bidwell Smith, author of The Rules of Inheritance