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.

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One of our rituals was in the week before Christmas, we’d go shopping and each kiddo would choose a keepsake decoration for the tree. This would forever be their decoration. To make sure we’d remember who owned what (a year is a long time!) I wrote their name and year on the box. The idea is that when they leave home, they’ll have a collection of special decorations for their own tree, plump with throwbacks (‘Oh I remember when we bought this!).

Then of course there was Christmas morning. Santa would leave a note on the table and bootprints on the front path, which smelled remarkably like talcum powder. So magical the way the snow was under the boot and never melted, even in an Australian summer! But that’s the magic of Christmas, right?!

We often put so much pressure on ourselves to make Christmas magical. Rituals can make this easier. They get the special memories, you get to make the ‘magic’ without having to come up with something new and different each year.

It’s very likely that there will already be Christmas rituals happening in your family, even if you don’t realise it. Ask them what they remember most, or what they loved most about last Christmas, aside from the presents.

They might surprise you with things you’d completely forgotten about, or which at the time didn’t seem to be a biggie. It can be the simplest things. Maybe they loved the way they were allowed to have ice-cream with pancakes at breakfast last Christmas. (Ice-cream at breakfast?! Told you Christmas was magical!!). 

If it’s what they remember, and if it lights them up, let it become a ‘thing’. Maybe they loved the magic ‘neverending carrot’ sprinkles you put on the scrawny carrot you found in the vege drawer (remembering reindeer groceries can be so hard sometimes!)

You’d be surprised what they find special. It doesn’t have to be big to feel magical.

What are your Christmas rituals? Let’s share ideas in the comments.♥️
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Because sales are the best, and Christmas is the best, and helping kiddos find their brave is the very best of all! So, to celebrate the end of the year (because truly, it's been a year hasn't it), and to help you settle brave hearts for next year, or night times, or separations, or, you know, all the things, we're taking 25% off books and plushies in the Hey Sigmund shop.

There's no need to enter a code. The books and bundles are already marked with their special sale prices. You'll find them all there - plushies, books, bundles - doing shopping cartwheels, beside themselves excited about helping your young ones feel bigger than anxiety, and shimmy on to brave. 
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It can feel as though the only way to strengthen them against their anxiety is to make sure they have nothing to worry about, but when their worries are real this might not happen quickly. 

Instead, we need to focus on helping them know that even though those worries are there, they will be okay. ‘Not worrying’ isn’t the antidote to anxiety, trust is. This will start with trust in you and your belief that they will be okay, and trust in your reaction if things don’t go to plan. Eventually, as they grow this will expand into trust in themselves and their own capacity to find their way through challenges to a place of hope and strength. 
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Strong steady breathing will reverse the fight or flight physiology that causes nausea, butterflies, or sick or sore tummies during anxiety. BUT telling an anxious brain to take a strong steady breath will potentially make anxiety worse unless strong steady breathing feels familiar. Practising during calm times will make it familiar. 

During anxiety we’re dealing with their amygdala, and it wants short shallow breathing to conserve oxygen. It doesn’t want strong steady breathing and will work hard to resist this. 

An anxious brain is a busy brain and it will be less able to do anything unfamiliar. A few minutes of strong steady breathing each day will set up a strong neural pathway to make strong breathing more automatic and accessible during anxiety. 

In the meantime though, you can do it for them. This is the magic of co-regulation. When you do strong steady breathing during their anxiety, it will calm your nervous system which will eventually calm theirs. You will catch their anxiety, and this will feed into their anxiety. Your strong steady breathing is the circuit breaker. They will catch your anxiety, but they will also catch your calm. Don’t worry if this takes a few minutes (and maybe a few more after that). Anxious brains are strong, powerful, beautiful brains working hard to protect. Breathe and be with. This will open the way for that distressed young nervous system to find its way home. And you don’t need to do more than that.♥️
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Needs and behaviour can get tangled up and treated as one. When you can, separate the need from the behaviour. Give voice to the need - let it find a way to breathe - and redirect the behaviour. 

The need might always be clear, especially if it’s being smothered by angry shouting words. If we stifle the behaviour without acknowledging the need, the need stays hungry. Help usher it into the light by making it clear that you’re ready to receive it. Then wait. Wait for the big behaviour to ease, for bodies to calm, and angry voices to soften - but keep the way to you open. ‘You’re a great kid and I know you know that behaviour wasn’t okay. Talk to me about what’s happening for you.’

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