Beginnings are not always easy. At the end of this first week back to school whether high school or college you can always expect the unexpected. Here are few situations that came up this week with my coaching clients and I thought they might be helpful to you as well.
A parent called me this week worried about her freshman in college. This kid had always been independent and responsible during her high school years. This was the kid who got up on time, got herself to school with no drama on the home front, got her homework done, no drama, had a longtime boyfriend, no drama, had some really good friends, no drama. Expectations were high that her transition to college life would be seamless. So it was a rude awakening for her parents when only a few days after drop-off to her school hundreds of miles from home, the tearful call came: " I want to come home, I can't eat, I can't sleep, I don't like my roommate, everything feels weird and wrong." How terrifying for a parent to hear that desperation in their child's voice.
Some kids really surprise us. You might have that child who seems to have it all together, and they do. They have created a life for themselves that is structured, maybe a bit ritualized, but routines and schedules are good right??? They are good until all those routines and rituals get thrown to the wind with a move to a college that is nothing like home. Transitions like this, can be hardest for kids who have been so successful at managing their life....at home. Going to college and having none of the familiar, safe and predictable ways of managing life can throw some kids for a loop. Temporarily!!! And that is the important word here. They will get through it. They are feeling feelings they have never felt before, and they are uncomfortable and scary feelings. For kids who like to feel and be in control of their lives, going to college challenges that. Everything feels out of control, new place, new room, new person who lives 5 feet from them, new teachers who don't know them, new food, etc, etc.
So for those of you who have kids who have left for their freshman year of college, and are calling home in tears, know that it will be OK. Be supportive, be loving be understanding, and most importantly give them your confidence that they can and will adjust to all this change.
A parent called this week who has a teen going into her junior year in high school. This teen had been recently diagnosed with ADD, had some academic challenges at the end of the sophomore year, and was extremely anxious about going back to school. A bright girl, she had been placed in all honor classes, and now as the first day of school came closer began to panic that the year would be disastrous. How could she manage it all, and in this most important junior year. As anxiety settled in, her behavior at home deteriorated. She became angry, disrespectful, flouted curfew, and toyed with alcohol. Signs that all was not well. Here is when parenting a teen becomes so challenging. Do you just look at the behavior you are getting, and respond to that with appropriate consequences, or do you look beyond what you see, and wonder what is really going on? You need to do both. You want to keep your teen safe but you also need to "get" that the stress, worry and anxiety they are feeling are real, and often spiral out of control unless the underlying causes are addressed. Luckily these parents did just that, "getting" that this kid did not need to be in all honors classes. Honors schmonors I say. Being challenged academically is a good thing, but pick the subject that is really of interest and importance to your teen, and that motivates them to go the distance. Just because your teen might be good at math, they may not be interested or turned on by it, but maybe English does. Be respectful of who your child is and what their goals are. Understand that they want to be successful just as much as you do, and don't want to be set up to fail.
And finally a word to the wise story:
A mom who had attended one of my seminars and learned about teen-proofing their home around alcohol shared this with me. Part of any teen-proofing the home plan includes locking up the alcohol. These parents did do that for the hard stuff and only kept wine in the house that they were drinking for a specific event, but the beer was a different story. They put the beer in a few coolers and hid them in their closet in their bedroom. On a weekend during the summer their 14 yr old son had a bunch of kids over, nothing new to this family. They love hosting their kids friends at their house. But this night, something just didn't feel right, and on a reconnaissance trip down the basement, they caught the kids drinking their beer. Seems their son had done some reconnaissance of his own, and found the closeted beer. Moral of this story, lock it up!!!