Teens Making College Decisions – Parent Help? Yes, Please

Teens Making College Decisions – Parent Help Yes, Please

Every parent wants his/her kids to become independent decision-makers. As they move into their teen years, it is definitely time for them to make choices and live with the consequences of those choices. They pick their friends, their activities, their high school elective courses, the clothes they wear, and a host of other things. We hope they will make wise choices, and often have to force ourselves to “let go” and bite our tongues when we believe a choice is wrong. It’s hard.

A major decision that is made between 11th and 12th grades is the choice of a college. This is far greater in scope than a decision about high school courses or activities. It is a decision about the next four years of this kid’s life, as well as one that has long-term consequences both in terms of career and finances. Parents play an important role – teens don’t have all of the necessary information to consider.

Before the Applications Even Go Out

Your teen will be better placed to make a decision that will be good for them if you’re able to have solid conversations before he or she begin the application process. These conversations need to include:

  1. What are they considering for career choices? Of course, this may change, but schools to which they apply should at least have decent programs in those career areas.
  2. How far away from home do they want to go? There needs to be a discussion about leaving family and friends, of course, but also about the great opportunities there are for kids who “strike out on their own” and experience all that new environments have to teach them about growing up and life itself.
  3. Budget considerations have to be discussed openly and honestly. If parents have budgeted specific amounts for college and those amounts will not cover some schools under consideration, what will the student need to do to get the rest of the funding? And do they understand the amount of debt they may have upon graduation and how long that will take to pay off? Chances are they don’t.

Having these discussions before applications are made will avoid a kid being set up for a disappointment. Yale is a wonderful school, but it costs about $50,000 a year.

Choices are Narrowed – a Great Teaching Moment

Once applications have gone out and acceptances have been received, the field has been narrowed. But deciding among those options still involves the same types of discussions as before and more – it will involve a decision-making process.

A college choice is a decision with long-term consequences. Most teens have not made such a decision before, and this gives parents a great chance to take them through the process of making those big life decisions that will come after college. If all goes well, the process will carry over into their adult lives, and they will have the skills to analyze options and to select the best one. The parent role in this is to teach the process not to make the decision.

Begin With Goals

It is important for kids to think about what their goals are in attending college. And they vary a lot. Some kids want pre-med or pre-law; other kids want a Bachelor’s in a specific field and then onto the work force immediately. Still others are totally clueless about potential majors and will need a strong general education program for the first couple of years while they “test the waters.” Whatever the current goals are, they should be written down.

Other non-academic goals are also important. What are geographic preferences? Is a larger, less personal environment that has greater diversity desirable, or is a smaller more personal institution a better fit?

List Those Pros and Cons

Once those goals are set, then each option can be analyzed with pros and cons based upon its meeting those goals.

A list of pros and cons should be made for each option. This is the only way to avoid an emotional decision, such as picking a school because a best friend is going there or because Uncle Charlie went there 20 years ago and loved it.

Insist Upon Visits

Your teen may have combed college websites and gained lots of information to put on his/her pro and con lists. But no final decision should be made without a visit. It’s just part of a rational path of investigation. Technology is wonderful, and virtual tours, inviting and exciting websites, and even apps that compare and contrast institutions are all great sources of information, but none of these things will replace physically setting oneself on a campus and experiencing the environment first-hand.

If your teen is particularly independent, many schools do offer weekend visits that will place him/her in a dorm with current students so that there is a real taste of college life.

The Final Choice – It is Your Teen’s to Make

What parents can provide is a process. They can also ask the important questions that will help their teens flush out their real goals, needs and desires. Ultimately, however, your kiddo must make the final decision. When that happens, it must be with your blessing, even if your choice would have been another. The important thing is that your teen now has a process for making other major decisions that will come along.

After the Decision – Support

Your role now is to be supportive of the decision and to help your teen prepare for this new chapter of life. S/he will need to continue to conduct lots of research in order to know what equipment, supplies, clothing, and even technology, along with tools and apps that fellow students recommend for being more successful should be accumulated between now and the departure date. 


About the author: Julie Ellis

JulieJulie Ellis is Miami-based marketer, passionate traveller and business blogger.

When she’s not engaged in helping her customers and students, you can find her writing lifestyle and personal development articles.

Follow Julie’s Twitter to connect and find some daily inspiration.

2 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow Hey Sigmund on Instagram

Big feelings, and the big behaviour that comes from big feelings, are a sign of a distressed nervous system. Think of this like a burning building. The behaviour is the smoke. The fire is a distressed nervous system. It’s so tempting to respond directly to the behaviour (the smoke), but by doing this, we ignore the fire. Their behaviour and feelings in that moment are a call for support - for us to help that distressed brain and body find the way home. 

The most powerful language for any nervous system is another nervous system. They will catch our distress (as we will catch theirs) but they will also catch our calm. It can be tempting to move them to independence on this too quickly, but it just doesn’t work this way. Children can only learn to self-regulate with lots (and lots and lots) of experience co-regulating. 

This isn’t something that can be taught. It’s something that has to be experienced over and over. It’s like so many things - driving a car, playing the piano - we can talk all we want about ‘how’ but it’s not until we ‘do’ over and over that we get better at it. 

Self-regulation works the same way. It’s not until children have repeated experiences with an adult bringing them back to calm, that they develop the neural pathways to come back to calm on their own. 

An important part of this is making sure we are guiding that nervous system with tender, gentle hands and a steady heart. This is where our own self-regulation becomes important. Our nervous systems speak to each other every moment of every day. When our children or teens are distressed, we will start to feel that distress. It becomes a loop. We feel what they feel, they feel what we feel. Our own capacity to self-regulate is the circuit breaker. 

This can be so tough, but it can happen in microbreaks. A few strong steady breaths can calm our own nervous system, which we can then use to calm theirs. Breathe, and be with. It’s that simple, but so tough to do some days. When they come back to calm, then have those transformational chats - What happened? What can make it easier next time?

Who you are in the moment will always be more important than what you do.
How we are with them, when they are their everyday selves and when they aren’t so adorable, will build their view of three things: the world, its people, and themselves. This will then inform how they respond to the world and how they build their very important space in it. 

Will it be a loving, warm, open-hearted space with lots of doors for them to throw open to the people and experiences that are right for them? Or will it be a space with solid, too high walls that close out too many of the people and experiences that would nourish them.

They will learn from what we do with them and to them, for better or worse. We don’t teach them that the world is safe for them to reach into - we show them. We don’t teach them to be kind, respectful, and compassionate. We show them. We don’t teach them that they matter, and that other people matter, and that their voices and their opinions matter. We show them. We don’t teach them that they are little joy mongers who light up the world. We show them. 

But we have to be radically kind with ourselves too. None of this is about perfection. Parenting is hard, and days will be hard, and on too many of those days we’ll be hard too. That’s okay. We’ll say things we shouldn’t say and do things we shouldn’t do. We’re human too. Let’s not put pressure on our kiddos to be perfect by pretending that we are. As long as we repair the ruptures as soon as we can, and bathe them in love and the warmth of us as much as we can, they will be okay.

This also isn’t about not having boundaries. We need to be the guardians of their world and show them where the edges are. But in the guarding of those boundaries we can be strong and loving, strong and gentle. We can love them, and redirect their behaviour.

It’s when we own our stuff(ups) and when we let them see us fall and rise with strength, integrity, and compassion, and when we hold them gently through the mess of it all, that they learn about humility, and vulnerability, and the importance of holding bruised hearts with tender hands. It’s not about perfection, it’s about consistency, and honesty, and the way we respond to them the most.♥️

#parenting #mindfulparenting
Anxiety and courage always exist together. It can be no other way. Anxiety is a call to courage. It means you're about to do something brave, so when there is one the other will be there too. Their courage might feel so small and be whisper quiet, but it will always be there and always ready to show up when they need it to.
⁣
But courage doesn’t always feel like courage, and it won't always show itself as a readiness. Instead, it might show as a rising - from fear, from uncertainty, from anger. None of these mean an absence of courage. They are the making of space, and the opportunity for courage to rise.
⁣
When the noise from anxiety is loud and obtuse, we’ll have to gently add our voices to usher their courage into the light. We can do this speaking of it and to it, and by shifting the focus from their anxiety to their brave. The one we focus on is ultimately what will become powerful. It will be the one we energise. Anxiety will already have their focus, so we’ll need to make sure their courage has ours.
⁣
But we have to speak to their fear as well, in a way that makes space for it to be held and soothed, with strength. Their fear has an important job to do - to recruit the support of someone who can help them feel safe. Only when their fear has been heard will it rest and make way for their brave.
⁣
What does this look like? Tell them their stories of brave, but acknowledge the fear that made it tough. Stories help them process their emotional experiences in a safe way. It brings word to the feelings and helps those big feelings make sense and find containment. ‘You were really worried about that exam weren’t you. You couldn’t get to sleep the night before. It was tough going to school but you got up, you got dressed, you ... and you did it. Then you ...’
⁣
In the moment, speak to their brave by first acknowledging their need to flee (or fight), then tell them what you know to be true - ‘This feels scary for you doesn’t it. I know you want to run. It makes so much sense that you would want to do that. I also know you can do hard things. My darling, I know it with everything in me.’
⁣
#positiveparenting #parenting #childanxiety #anxietyinchildren #mindfulpare
Separation anxiety has an important job to do - it’s designed to keep children safe by driving them to stay close to their important adults. Gosh it can feel brutal sometimes though.

Whenever there is separation from an attachment person there will be anxiety unless there are two things: attachment with another trusted, loving adult; and a felt sense of you holding on, even when you aren't beside them. Putting these in place will help soften anxiety.

As long as children are are in the loving care of a trusted adult, there's no need to avoid separation. We'll need to remind ourselves of this so we can hold on to ourselves when our own anxiety is rising in response to theirs. 

If separation is the problem, connection has to be the solution. The connection can be with any loving adult, but it's more than an adult being present. It needs an adult who, through their strong, warm, loving presence, shows the child their abundant intention to care for that child, and their joy in doing so. This can be helped along by showing that you trust the adult to love that child big in our absence. 'I know [important adult] loves you and is going to take such good care of you.'

To help your young one feel held on to by you, even in absence, let them know you'll be thinking of them and can't wait to see them. Bolster this by giving them something of yours to hold while you're gone - a scarf, a note - anything that will be felt as 'you'.

They know you are the one who makes sure their world is safe, so they’ll be looking to you for signs of safety: 'Do you think we'll be okay if we aren't together?' First, validate: 'You really want to stay with me, don't you. I wish I could stay with you too! It's hard being away from your special people isn't it.' Then, be their brave. Let it be big enough to wrap around them so they can rest in the safety and strength of it: 'I know you can do this, love. We can do hard things can't we.'

Part of growing up brave is learning that the presence of anxiety doesn't always mean something is wrong. Sometimes it means they are on the edge of brave - and being away from you for a while counts as brave.
Even the most loving, emotionally available adult might feel frustration, anger, helplessness or distress in response to a child’s big feelings. This is how it’s meant to work. 

Their distress (fight/flight) will raise distress in us. The purpose is to move us to protect or support or them, but of course it doesn’t always work this way. When their big feelings recruit ours it can drive us more to fight (anger, blame), or to flee (avoid, ignore, separate them from us) which can steal our capacity to support them. It will happen to all of us from time to time. 

Kids and teens can’t learn to manage big feelings on their own until they’ve done it plenty of times with a calm, loving adult. This is where co-regulation comes in. It helps build the vital neural pathways between big feelings and calm. They can’t build those pathways on their own. 

It’s like driving a car. We can tell them how to drive as much as we like, but ‘talking about’ won’t mean they’re ready to hit the road by themselves. Instead we sit with them in the front seat for hours, driving ‘with’ until they can do it on their own. Feelings are the same. We feel ‘with’, over and over, until they can do it on their own. 

What can help is pausing for a moment to see the behaviour for what it is - a call for support. It’s NOT bad behaviour or bad parenting. It’s not that.

Our own feelings can give us a clue to what our children are feeling. It’s a normal, healthy, adaptive way for them to share an emotional load they weren’t meant to carry on their own. Self-regulation makes space for us to hold those feelings with them until those big feelings ease. 

Self-regulation can happen in micro moments. First, see the feelings or behaviour for what it is - a call for support. Then breathe. This will calm your nervous system, so you can calm theirs. In the same way we will catch their distress, they will also catch ours - but they can also catch our calm. Breathe, validate, and be ‘with’. And you don’t need to do more than that.

Pin It on Pinterest