Tis the season.....For all of you who have high school seniors, the college acceptance and rejection season is upon you. You are in high anxiety, and your teen is in higher anxiety. This feels like a defining moment for everyone, even though truly....it is not. Admission to college is a little like a shell game these days. Sometimes kids get into the colleges they did not expect, and sometimes they get rejected from a school they thought was a sure thing. Sometimes kids get into what they thought was their dream school, and by the end of the first semester they are miserable, disillusioned, and can't wait to transfer somewhere else.
Your first job is to monitor your own emotional temperature, and manage your own expectations. Where your senior gets in or doesn't get in does not define him or her or YOU. It does does not make them a genius or a loser. It is a moment in time. I have seen kids go to the school of their dreams and fail miserably, and I have seen kids go to their bottom of the list choice and end up happy, and very successful. Once the initial shock, excitement, or disappointment wears off, as it does by summer when you are in buying for the dorm mode, all will be forgotten except for the excitement of starting college...any college! If you are more excited than, or more disappointed then your teen, you need to tone it down. Your teen is not in the business of having to meet or not meet your expectations and dreams for them. They have enough to contend with dealing with their own feelings. Talk to your partner, talk to your mother, talk to your friends, but don't impose your emotional agenda on your child. That will truly be the best gift you can give them for graduation!
What you can do is that will be helpful to your perspective college freshman is validate whatever feelings they are having. You don't need to try to make it all better, or tell them what you think they should do or go, you just need to understand and be in THEIR moment with them. As In: "I get this must be exciting for you, or disappointing for you,or frustrating for you, etc, etc" Remember that your teen lives in the emotional part of their brain. So whatever the outcome of this college decision process is, your teen will feel first, think later. Give them the time to do that. There are alot of factors that weigh in on the college decision, $$, location, course offerings, distance from home, but there is time to think about all those things later. Give your teen the time to process, and sit with the results. Maybe even a few weeks before you even start talking about it. You might say;" I get how hard this decision will be for you, I know you have a lot to think about. I want to give you time to just digest before we have to really get on the decision making stick. I am happy to talk with you anytime, but I want you to know that I respect your need to think on it. Let me know how I can help."
And finally, please respect your teen's privacy when it comes to sharing the acceptances or rejections. Maybe your teen could care less who knows and will give you permission to tell the world. But some kids are VERY sensitive about this whole process and absolutely do not want their business shared with the masses. Case in point: I was at my gym last week and over heard a discussion between two moms who were spin class acquaintances, not best friends. Both were going down their teen's list of where they were accepted or rejected. I wondered why that seemed so important to two women who didn't even know or care about each other's kids. I know parents are proud when their kids get into schools that make them proud. Often I see those parents starting off the conversation, just so someone will ask them about their kids. Try not to get into the " My kids better than your kid" state of mind. All of our kids are wonderful, and where they get in or don't get in will not change that!
This is a wonderful op-ed Frank Bruni wrote for The Times this weekend about this subject: