The C Word

The C Word

When most people hear the “C word” they think of the horrific illness, Cancer. However, for those who are seniors in high school or parents, friends, relatives and teachers, it means something much different. It means COLLEGE.

The “C” word is the elephant in the room or the topic that sends high school seniors into a panic state. So, in order to gain some control or semblance of order in their lives, they just don’t talk about it. Of course, unless they are forced to, at which time, we will hear responses such as, ‘well, I am keeping my options open,’ or, ‘I prefer the west coast or I am looking at staying in the south.’ These will among many other planned comebacks when people ask the big question, ‘Where are you going to college?’

I was asked to give a talk to senior girls and their mothers regarding the transition from being in high school, living in their parents’ homes to going off to college. I was asked to address the challenging issues that mothers face in letting their children go and the effects that this transition has on mothers.

There are several tips that that will assist in this very uncertain, scary transition that affects the entire family. Here are some of them.

For Parents: When your child goes to college.

  • Be a ‘think’ partner, not a fixer.

    When your kids ask you what they should do about (fill in the blank), what they want is a ‘think partner’, not advice. They want help navigating the waters. If your child seems distressed, try asking, ‘What have you thought about around this issue?’. They might outline plenty of alternatives, and it is from here that you can begin to help think with them. This takes time. Often we, as parents, are way too eager to give advice in order to solve the problem to protect our kids from being hurt. Nobody wants to get a phone call from a hysterical child, but fixing the problem for them is not the answer.

  • Practice daily self-care.

    What can you do for yourself to take care of you? Try to find this in the things you love in you life – exercise, hobbies, reading, spending time with friends, volunteering, career.

  • Be a mirror.

    If they are not calling you, everything is ok and they are navigating their way though their new life. You’ve given them wings, now let them fly.

  • Trust the process.

    Feel your feelings and be present with them. You are not alone and it is very hard to let go. It’s ok to feel whatever comes with that. By embracing the feeling in the moment, it will be easier to navigate through to the other side.

  • Find your new normal.

    Add two new words to your vocabulary: ‘new normal’. Using these two words tricks your brain into adapting to change more smoothly.

And For Seniors: When you’re heading off to college …

  • Take the word ‘perfect’ out of your vocabulary.

    There is no such thing as the ‘perfect’ college. Every college has its pros and cons and even if a college seems ‘perfect’, it never ends up being perfect.

  • Get into good habits.

    Time management is one of the best habits you can get into. Try writing down what you’d like each day to look like. Another important habit is to make healthy food choices. People talk about how hard it is to eat healthy in college. Think about that now so you can have a game plan. How are you going to balance eating ‘the college way’ and eat healthy too? 

  • Be your own advocate.

    Understand and acknowledge that disappointment is part of life. Learning to advocate for yourself with adults, professors, all on your own will be your way of life. All of the things you do now with the help of your parents, are now going to happen because YOU make them happen.

  • What do YOU think?

    Before you call your parents for guidance, ask yourself first what YOU really think before you run it by your parents. Learn to use these words, ‘I’m just venting,’ or, ‘I would like to know what you think’. Try to be clear, so they can be what you need them to be in that moment.

  • Practice daily self-care.

    What do you need to do for yourself that shows that you are important and that you have value in this world? Try for things that are not strictly related to being a student. Make sure to identify what makes you happy and do something every single day to make yourself happy, such as hobbies, exercise, or spending time outdoors.

  • Communicate with your parents.

    Let them know how you are doing. Not every minute or every hour, but a little peak into your life will go a long way. The more you share with them, the less they will feel the need to keep calling you to see how you’re doing. It’s a big adjustment for them too. 

  • Find your new normal.

    Add two new words to your vocabulary: ‘new normal’. Using these two words tricks your brain into adapting to change more smoothly.

Good luck and remember that we take ourselves wherever we go. So, for the kids who are going off to college, hold on to YOU. You are amazing and have everything it takes to own this transition. And for parents, you have done your job and you have done it well. Although your job is never over, it’s time to let them be the young adults you have raised them to be.


About the Author: Allison Goldberg

Allison Goldberg has been in human services since she graduated from the University of Texas with a Bachelor of Science in Communication in 1990 with a minor in Sociology.  She graduated in 3 years because she wanted to get out into the work force and begin helping people.

Allison has spent the last 12 years focusing on her life coaching business venture, Personal Dynamics.  Personal Dynamics is the name of her Life Coaching company and a spin off of her position as a corporate trainer and coach with Image Dynamics.  Personal Dynamics life coaching is about creating an opportunity for Certified Life Coach, Allison to partner with her clients and develop a program and process to reach their personal goals. As a life coach, the idea is to bridge the gap between the clients personal goals and current daily life results.  Life Coaching includes clarifying the client’s personal vision and purpose, addressing behaviors that create barriers to success, problem solving, and handling challenges as they occur.

You can find Allison at Personal Dynamics and on Facebook.

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