Wednesday, December 16, 2009

'Tis the holiday season!

Merry, merry and happy, happy!
They're home or they're coming home! I love this time of year, but I won't lie, it's an adjustment for everybody! If you haven't had a houseful this past semester then you know what I'm talking about. Just when you had things where you liked them, the gas gauge on your vehicle where you remember leaving it, the food in the fridge that you knew would be there to make all changes...but there's more to it than that.

Think back to when you were in their shoes. They have been living on their own, making their own decisions and choices about things. They've been deciding when to come home at night, (no curfews at college), when to eat and sleep, how long to sleep, maybe they've been taking naps during the course of the day. What they eat, when they study, when and how much they exercise. You have not been a factor in the structure of their day. Where we parents run into trouble is if we instantly regress and go back to the time when we did structure their days. Not a good idea. There will be conflicts a-go-go.

I know I blogged about a related timeframe when they come home for the summer (blog: Summer They're Pushing the envelope), but somehow the holiday timeframe is different. Maybe because it's a compressed period, maybe because there's more emotion associated with the holidays, maybe it's because there's a bit of a competition for your kid's time: their friends want to see and spend time with them and so do you and their siblings. It's tough to be so popular! :)

They are usually completely exhausted when they first come home. They've been burning the midnight oil, cramming a semester's worth of material into their brains, probably not eating well and most likely they're sick with a cold or worse. What I've learned through my kids, is let them sleep. Everyone's happier if your kid is rested. Some good home-cooked meals tends to be appreciated and if you're really nice, you've scheduled those doctor and dental visits for a little later in their vacation. I have that image of the Wizard of Oz when the Scarecrow, Tinman, Cowardly Lion and Dorothy all get fixed up for their visit to the Wizard, that's what it must feel like to our kids when they are home.

A friend forwarded me a good email that George Washington University's Director of Parent Services sent out. (Interesting job title, don't you think? What a reputation we parents have!) Basically he said, that it's an adjustment for everyone, a transition for everyone and there needs to be communication about expectations from both parties. Hear! Hear! I think that's the key, communicate! Let your kids know what are MFO's (mandatory family obligations) and what aren't, what your expectations are about when they come home: how late friends can stay at night, who's doing their laundry, what meals you expect them at, use of the car....believe me, when you have this conversation they'll chime in their expectations and there may have to be some compromises. Depending on who you talk to in our household, I think my kids would feel differently about who's compromised most. But that's not the point, having everyone under the same roof, co habitating and enjoying each other's company, that's the goal!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Have you made reservations?

That's right, you! I've learned over the years that if you want to see your kids over the holidays (at a reasonable price), you better be actively involved in the reservation making! So if you haven't made those flight reservations for Thanksgiving, you're really pushing the proverbial envelope. I've just checked some websites and to travel Wed. through Sunday of Thanksgiving, fahgetaboutit.... The prices are going up. And going up a lot. And the availability is the pits, unless you want to travel on turkey day, which is a bummer. So if you want to see them over the holidays, get on the computer!

Negotiating these plans is an interesting process. When they're in college, you know when their breaks are and you assume that the holidays "belong to you:" they'll be coming home or meeting you somewhere. When they're in the working world, they only get two or three weeks vacation per year, and you may make the assumption that they of course want to spend their time off with you, but not necessarily....

Thus the negotiations begin! A couple of the added bennies we parents have is that we offer the "traditions they grew up with," we stroke the nostalgia key. Who knows, there's a real possibility we might pick up the tab for their travels? Why not sweeten the pot? We might even offer a "destination" vacation. But you better communicate with your kids about all of this: dates, times they're available to travel, etc. You don't want to experience their wrath if you made the wrong assumption. Assume nothing. Talk to them.

One thing is clear though, if you haven't made those reservations, you better get on it... they're not, I suppose they just assume that you're going to "take care of this" and may even pay for this. But speaking as a past retailer and not being able to go home for Christmas those first several years out of college, I have real empathy. It's a real bummer not to be with family over the holidays, so if you can help your Gen Yer avoid that, do! Make those reservations! It's a good gift!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Parents' Influence!

I'm going to throw something out there. I've been "noodling."

There's been a lot written about marketing to various generations and how kids influence their parents' purchases. As a parent of Gen Yers, let me tell you, we parents influence our kids' purchases!

I'll back up. Way back before Gap Kids, 1980ish, my husband was a Boys' buyer at Macy's California. He convinced a couple of outerwear vendors to make the famous "members only" jacket in boys sizes 8-20, well, they blew out the door. Those little boys didn't like the "Little Lord Font Leroy" peter panned collared stuff." I'm exaggerating a tad, but not much. They wanted to look cool, so when Mom took'em shopping,they'd beg and plead for 'members only' and... you know the rest. Well, that kind of thinking evolved and developed into many different businesses, by many different people. Those little darlings influenced our purchases. Fast forward: Now that our kids are older and the price tags for things they want has escalated exponentially AND they don't like to part with their own dough, our kids turn to us for our help and advice on things.

These kids are very knowledgeable and opinionated about electronic purchases, so they tend to take the reins there, but when it comes to buying a bed, or furniture, or housewares, or a suit, or a car... that's where Mom comes in (or Dad). Now I'm not talking about paying for these items, necessarily. I'm talking about the fact that they call us and ask us for our opinions, our suggestions, our recommendations on those big ticket items, where to go, what websites to check, and nine times out of ten they buy what's suggested.

When it came time for my son to get an "interview suit," he didn't head out on his own to make that purchase, WE went. There I was rummaging through the rounder of suits, picking out the wool gabardines, leading him away from the summer khakis, "a wool gabardine will take you through 9 months, a khaki through 3 AND you'll have this suit for years, it's a classic. This is a much better purchase, more bang for the buck," I said. When my daughter was looking for a dining table, same scenario. Both Mom and Dad went recently to the furniture store with our son when he was buying a bed... these are big purchases, they're long term purchases and our kids look to us for guidance, and oh yes, the possibility that we just may pick up the tab. But it's really that they don't want to "go this alone," not when there's serious money involved.

When your Gen Yer graduates from college; no more furnished dorm room, it's time for that apartment and making choices. There's probably a bunch of stuff they can have from the family home, as long as they provide the U-haul and the brawn, but if they don't live close by, that's not necessarily the best option. Some conversations sound like this: "does it make sense to spend X dollars on a brand new rug for the living room that I'll have for years? or Should I go to Target and pick one up that I may only have for a year or two? Should I spend X dollars for a new bed? My back is killing me after a night on a lousy mattress." Our kids are asking for advice on their benefits packages (401ks, insurance, etc.), they're also asking about their "real world" purchases and let's face it, we have influence!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

It's Fall!

Fall really starts a new year. For me, that back-to-school timing conjures up the start of something, much more than January 1st does.

I can really feel that new year energy from my kids too. All summer there are varying conversations about the weekends and vacations, and where they're going, who they're going with, but now you don't hear that that much. Instead, it's more future focused conversations. Not my future (why is that?), theirs.

From my college kids I'm already hearing about possible jobs or internships for next They're actually thinking about this stuff! There's talk about majors or trying a class in a new department taught by a professor that they've heard good things about. Really? You mean they actually listened to that tidbit of advice way back when? They're plotting and planning who they want to see and what they want to do over the Christmas break, who they might talk to about an internship or job. I didn't hear any of this stuff over the summer. One of my son's suggested that he was thinking about this stuff "probably because friends of mine here are talking about it." Now this is the kind of peer pressure I like! :)

From my already graduated kids (there's something about the term "college graduate" that makes me think of "The Graduate," sorry, I digress) I'm hearing about how things are revving up at work, business jaunts to NYC (oh, my little executive), new promotions to create....I'm hearing about writing business plans, taking tests for graduate school, lots of new business ideas always percolating...

There's loads of energy! I'd love to bottle this and sell it! I love this time of year!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Your Job as Parent.... ongoing!

I remember thinking, when my kids went through middle school, how different it was parenting.

Yes, it was physically busy, transporting them from here to there. Being "on them" about doing their homework. Running around gathering their supplies, their sporting equipment. Going to their games, their performances, attending their science fairs, volunteering on their field trips, chaperoning their dances....the list went on. Very busy. But the shift really was in the emotional quotient piece of parenting. These young people were experiencing real life stuff. Hurt feelings, emotional highs and lows (which usually involved their friends), not making teams, receiving grades for the first time (no longer the "need strengthening stuff", the VG's, etc.)... and all of this stuff would eventually end up at home in some form or other. I remember feeling that I wish I could take on some of their pain, some of their emotions, so they wouldn't have to suffer. I also felt like that, if one of my kids ended up in the emergency room from some injury and they were in pain. Crazy I know.

Well, this role of emotional supporter sure does continue long past middle school, all through high school, through college and long after they've graduated. If you think your role as parent is "done" when they go off to school...wrong! Their "problems" or emotional experiences take on a considerably different ability in parenting. I've found that I've really had to hone my listening skills and I can't take on their pain and upset. The "voice of reason" comes to mind as I'm writing this. No one tells you that as a parent of young adults you're really a jack of all trades: counselor, consultant, psychiatrist, cheerleader, spiritual advisor... there are a million adjectives to use for parenting skills.

It's a big transition to college, and the rest of the college years! This time can bring about big changes in a student's life! It can be the first time they are dealing with a lot of issues: depression, displacement, eating disorders, self confidence issues, friends with problems, divorcing parents, roommates, etc. Even if your child showed no signs of issues with these problems in high school, a lot of times these things pop up in the 4 years of college: more often than you think. So, as a parent, be looking for changes in patterns with your child. It can be anything from changes in voice tone, sleeping schedules, calling home (or not)... it could manifest in any way, you know your child best, and you know what is normal/ not normal for them, so listen and pay attention! If you notice changes, then encourage your kid to talk to someone: use the college counselors, it is not embarrassing, more students use the counselors than you would think, for a wide, wide range of issues, both large and small: anything from feeling homesick, to being stressed, to being worried about a friend, frustrated with a roommate, or just wanting a third party to talk to, they've got support, they've got resources. Encourage your kid to ask.

This is tough stuff, and as a parent of Gey Yers, it's a balancing act too. You have to realize when you're hovering and there too much, and when you have to let them make their own decisions and choices on things. You need to encourage them to use their resources. You're not always going to be there, nor are they going to want you, so they need to know where to seek help and advice if you're not. I'll admit that I have an underlying assumption that as parents, we've laid the foundation. We've been talking to our kids all along, about loads of different stuff. Our kids are used to us asking them how their day was, or "tell me about the game," so as they get older we should be able to talk to them about the tougher stuff too, like sex, drugs, their feelings... We have to have confidence that our kids will make good decisions, based on that foundation; the value system you've helped them establish, will inform those choices, those decisions.

Will there be mistakes, "98 and 3/4% guaranteed", but they'll learn from those (you hope). Just remember, you did!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Parents' Weekend is coming! It's all about the Visual!

That's right, it's about time you get to check in on your little darlin'! They've been in school since mid August, or maybe the beginning of September and now it's time for the onslaught of parents. I highly recommend going if it's your kid's freshman year. It's a great way to get a visual! And I don't know about you, but I'm ALL about the visual!
You can check out their digs, meet some of their friends, get a gage of what's going on on campus, go for a re-supply of some of those basic essentials (like detergent, deodorant, toothpaste....), maybe go to a class or two...

I must say, after going freshman year, when you make a return trip the following years, it's a kick to see their friends again, or reconnect with some of the other parents. By graduation, you have your own little network of familiar faces to at least say hello to! From my perspective, Parents' Weekend is a welcomed "new" tradition on campuses across the country. I don't remember this event when I was in college? I don't know when they started them, probably for us demanding Baby Boomers, but I quite like them. And if we don't go on the actual designated weekend, try to go on another weekend in the fall, so you can achieve some of the things I previously mentioned, like the all important visual!

OK, true confession, the college designated Parents' Weekend is great freshman year; you're a newbie, the college/university puts on "the dog" for the parents, they strut their stuff, other parents are there to meet, the college is sparkly clean, there is loads to do on campus because they're expecting you... but after freshman year, it's kind of nice to go on a "quieter" weekend. Then you get the real story, the straight scoop. I guess the potential bummer is that your kid is on their own for Parents' Weekend, no free dinners, but MAYBE one of those nice other parents that go will include your child?!? Just like you will include theirs when you're there!

Golden Rules for every generation!

This about sums it up:

Ann Landers " Golden Rules for Living"

1. If you open it, close it.
2. If you turn it on, turn it off.
3. If you unlock it, lock it up.
4. If you break it, admit it.
5. If you can't fix it, call in someone who can.
6. If you borrow it, return it.
7. If you value it, take care of it.
8. If you make a mess, clean it up.
9. If you move it, put it back.
10. If it belongs to someone else, get permission to use it.
11. If you don't know how to operate it, leave it alone
12. If it is none of your business, don's ask questions

These are displayed in my grandparents' summer spot in Maine. I think my grandfather took Ann Landers' rules and tweaked them a bit.
Don'tchya just love the Maine humah!

Home Rules:
If you sleep on it-
Make it up.
If you wear it-
Hang it up.
If you drop it-
Pick it up.
If you eat out of it-
Wash it. (or put it in the dishwasher) (this was added in the last 10 years)
If you step on it-
Wipe it off!
If you open it-
Close it.
If you empty it-
Fill it up.
If it rings-
Answer it.
If it howls-
Feed it.
If it cries-
Love it!

Rules to live by!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

$$$ College kids and Money! $$$

It's not to late to have a conversation about money with your college kid! It's one of those things that seems to slip through the cracks and before you know it, either you're A) getting a phone call from Johnny saying he's out of dough B) you go online to transfer their allowance and you realize their account is overdrawn (yikes!) and you hit the roof, C) your kid says to you that they can't buy their books for the semester because they don't have any money
("I'm just hearing about this now? What have you been doing for the last three weeks?") get the picture.

So before you experience some of those scenarios, take my advice: Have a conversation.

This conversation varies from household to household, but the common thread is:
Spell out your expectations! If you agree to an allowance, how often will they receive it, every month, every semester. The beginning of the month, the 15th, the end. What is that supposed to cover, exactly what are incidentals anyway? Shaving cream and toothpaste? Pizza and a movie? A pair of jeans? Whose money pays for what? Ideally they've got some money of their own from their summer job, or Aunt Harriet or something and that may be the fund they dip into to support their concert tickets or the train ticket to visit a buddy at college in the city, whatever. Maybe you expect them to pay for their own books? Believe me, this is not figured out through osmosis. And your idea of what their allowance covers compared to theirs can vary a great deal too. For example, I've always told my kids that we don't pay for beer, they do. (Of course they have to be 21!) That Wii their desperate to have for "down time"....sorry. But shampoo and toothpaste, yep. Vitamins, covered. We'll even cover that Broadway ticket for that freshman field trip. There really needs to be some clarity around whose money this really is. Is it their money, after all it's their allowance or is it your money, because you've made the deposit? It's OK to say that you'll be happy to discuss this over the school year/years. Adjustments to what you originally agreed to may need to be made. You might even get a phone call from your son saying, "Mom, I really don't need the amount of allowance you give me. I know things are tight, please ratchet it back. I'm able to cover my expenses with X instead of Y." Really? Really.

And maybe your child has to get a job on campus to cover some of these expenses. There seem to be all kinds of jobs for students on campus, some are a one shot deal, like being part of a research study for a Sleep and Dreams professor and sleeping in a lab for a night (really) or maybe it's being a tour guide, or working in the "stacks' checking student id's, or being a lifeguard at the school's pool....but again discuss your expectations, should this be part time, and just how "part" and what happens if their grades start to suffer? Communicate!

When you look at the meal plan that's been purchased and the "university dollars" that are on their student card, side note: as each of our kids have gone through the different colleges those univ. dollars seem to cover more and more. Thank God the roll of quarters for the washing machine and dryer seem to be a thing of the past in more and more colleges. Boxers just may get washed! Maybe their sheets too, at least once. If all they have to do is "swipe" the card, how tough can this be? At any rate, a lot of their basic needs are billed by the college, but certainly not all, and depending on the meal plan that your student has chosen, they may not be fed on the weekends, so "incidentals" may include groceries or full meals out. Who knows? What I do know is that it sure adds up and as in any relationship, money is a funky conversation to have.

Believe me, this is a good way to help them start to really think about budgeting and how expensive things are and prioritizing.

Another lesson they learn along the way is who pays for what amongst their friends? Hopefully it just happens once when your son agrees to pay for the burgers, hot dogs, chips, charcoal, etc. for a tailgate, thinking that he'll be paid back by all of his frat brothers and guess what? Not. That can be an expensive lesson, not to mention the ill will that he feels because his "brothers" are slugs. If your kid has a car on campus and you've given her your gas card, watch out, she'll be doing all the driving for sure, but if you tell her that she's paying for her own gas, very quickly she figures out that either she doesn't volunteer to drive or she gets her riders to pitch in for gas.

I knew upfront that I was never going to be able to go home for Thanksgiving. Not when my family lived in CT and I was going to school in CA and Thanksgiving break was 4 days. It didn't really "hit me" until there was this mass exodus from campus that first Wednesday afternoon. Geeze, that was brutal! I made a very tearful call back east begging my mother to let me come home. Can you imagine receiving that call? Many years later she confessed to me that that was one of her toughest moments as a parent, having to calmly say to me that "I knew upfront, that I'd be home in just a few weeks and to wipe my tears and certainly there would be an invitation coming my way from a local family." Well, there was! Thank goodness, but I think my kids would tell you that I sometimes spell it out a little too clearly and a little too much in advance....

Everybody handles this a little differently and it's even handled differently within the same family. You know your kid best, and you know just how much dot connecting you need to do when having this conversation. You also know what you can and can't afford, so communicate with your son or daughter.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Helicopter parents...ugh!

You know the phrase. The media has coined this term for us. Can you imagine!?!? :) Me a helicopter parent? A friend forwarded me a segment from 20/20 about this subject and I have to say, watching it made me cringe, made me a wee bit defensive, and quite a bit of "I don't do that" ... do I? No, I don't. What I do do is definitely struggle with "letting go". That's why running things by my friends who've been here before me, or are experiencing this with me with their own kids, are saviors.

I remember way back when my mother strongly urged me to send our eldest to cooperative nursery school. It was good advice. Not only was the price tag more affordable, but there I was able to see once a week my daughter with her peers, I got to know other parents to bounce ideas off of, I got to check and see if what my daughter was doing was on par with the other kids...we didn't have the internet then to compare notes or have discussions on blogs with or websites to go to, we depended on that interface, on that exchange. It also paved the way or should I say sealed the deal with being sure to volunteer in the classroom when the kids were going through school. That was another great way to find out what was going on. But now that they're "launched", just how involved can or should you be? The million dollar question.

I really like the analogy Deborah Golder, Dean of Residential Education at Stanford University uses on this subject of 'letting go' and allowing our kids their independence and to live independently from us and we need to learn to live independently again too. "It’s like learning to hit a ball. In the end, the student has to swing the bat. If your parent is there, holding on to the bat and not letting go, you can’t learn. Parents can stand on the sidelines and give advice, like “keep your eye on the ball.” But let the student be the one out there swinging the bat." Hear! Hear! Well said.

I blogged about this idea of letting go and not being that helicopter parent they talk about before. Check out Transitions: Part One from High School to College.

It's a constant struggle, I won't lie. And it seems to be ongoing, but for now I'm watching the game from the sidelines, and loads of "keep your eye on the ball!!!"

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Destination vacation!

I've got to let you in on a little secret: Some of you may have already figured this out (I'm just a little slow on the uptake): destination vacation with your Gen Yers!

With two kids out of college and two kids in college, vacations have become a real challenge! Each of our college kids have different vacation schedules (of course) and each of our working kids have highly coveted, allotted, paid-by-their-employer vacation days, to the tune of maybe three weeks / year. Not to mention our vacation schedule (the parents)! Trying to align all of our schedules and to presume that our kids actually would WANT to vacation with us or spend their vacation with us, that's the goal, right?

Well, through some trial and error, mostly at the expense of our eldest kids, we (us parents) have discovered:
If we choose a desirable destination
A week that conceivably could work for everyone
Let our kids know that that's where we'll be and when
We're paying....
They come!
You know "Field of Dreams", "if you build it, they will come?" So true!

It's fantastic!! We're just back from our 2009 vacation. This year was in the Rockies and it was terrific! All 6 of us under one roof. What's so great about this destination vacation stuff, is that there are no friend distractions. Selfish? You betchya! The problem with them coming home for their vacations are that you never see them! They may appear for a meal or two, but they spend most of their time visiting with old friends! And mom-here gets to do their laundry! Just love sorting through whose boxers are whose? :) Of course we're guilty of being distracted too when we're home, so this is a win-win proposition!

Before we enter into the next phase of life, with significant others, spouses, etc., this has been a welcome change to our previous vacations. We were a family that always vacationed with my parents. Wonderful, for sure, on so many levels...and as my siblings started having kids they started joining us too...really great! But there's middle school, high school and college between my kids and my sibs' kids, so it's a totally different dynamic! About three years ago we decided to mix things up, and we head out on our own once a year. It's been great!

It's evolved into different people taking charge! Take meals for example, what a kick that is to witness. Some are better sous chefs than others, some prefer clean up to cooking, others prefer to "direct traffic" in the kitchen...all while music is blaring, laptops are humming with Facebook or Gchat (unbelievable) in the husband is still usually the one to man the grill (everyone's leery of "hockey pucks" as burgers). And as for the day's events and the planning, everyone chimes in on their wants, the usual sibling and /or parental pressure is applied to that person that "doesn't really want to go for the hike today." And in the end, we all go, there are loads of laughs, some blisters, and so many conversations about so many different things...did you know that you can video chat on Google now? Who knew? Or what goes on with pledging a fraternity and the numerous warnings/or advice an older sib gives a younger brother. BTW, pledges and cars; your kid will be running errands for the older "brothers" and if there are lots of seat belts available in that car, many miles will be logged on that vehicle for whatever "road trip" the frat decides to go on....who's paying for gas??? And that one of your kids can put you in Facebook pergatory (my words, not FB), only allowing you to see some of their posted pictures????
These are important topics! I learn a ton on these trips!

I highly recommend this vacation strategy with your Gen Y kids, who knows, maybe when we do enter the next phase this will be an "established precedent?!?" In the mean time...where should we go next year?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Letters of recommendation!

Your Gen Yer needs a letter(s) of recommendation. Whether it's for college applications, grad school apps or a job. Here are a few tips on the subject:

College app. recs. from teachers:
Hopefully, as a junior, your kid asked their teacher(s) before summer started. If not, quick, it's the beginning of senior year, get this high up on their list of things to do. Brainstorm with them which of their teachers really knows them. Ideally, one from a math/science teacher and one from a social science teacher. Contrary to popular belief, not necessarily the teacher that gave them the 'A'. The teacher that really knows them; that may have witnessed them going the extra mile, asking for help, working really hard to get their grade up, taking a real interest in their subject. Then have them personally ask that teacher(s) if they'd be willing to write them a letter of rec. for their college application. Suggest that your kid put a resume together so they have something to give the teacher to help them write their letter. Assume that the teacher doesn't know all of the other things your child is involved in outside of their class. Also assume that this teacher has been or will be asked by many other students to write on their behalf. It's much better to be at the beginning of their pile than towards the end.

Note: Assume that neither you nor your child, will ever read this letter. So encourage your kid to really sit down and talk to their teacher, almost like an interview. This is for your kid to do, NOT YOU! These letters are important. Make no mistake, a letter of recommendation can tip the "accept or reject" scale in either direction.
*I know of a young man that was told by a college coach that he was "in." Come college acceptance time, the coach got a call from Admissions, and Admissions told him that a letter of rec. for this young man said they didn't think the student could cut it at this highly selective school. Well, the coach was shocked, called the student, told him the turn of events and to the student's credit, the student spent Thanksgiving, writing a letter to the Dean of Admissions trying to convince him otherwise. That he could "cut it." The Dean gave this kid "the nod" and this young man just matriculated from this highly selective school AND was a Division 1 athlete to boot. But I bet if you were to ask this young man his take-away from this? It was a lesson he'll never forget! The other lesson: a coach is not the deciding factor, Admissions is.

Grad school app recs from Professors:
BEFORE your student graduates from college, have this conversation. Ideally before your kid's senior year. In general, once your child has declared a major, their class sizes have gotten smaller, they may have to write a thesis, and the reality of having a relationship with a professor or two is pretty high.
This is the person that your child should have write a letter of recommendation, when the time comes. Be sure your kid asks this professor if they'd be willing to before they graduate. Some professors actually will write the letter of recommendation and give it to the student, to be used in the future, so they don't have to worry about remembering them. Otherwise, here's the kicker, remind your son/daughter to shoot that professor an email to update them on what they're doing. At least once a year. They want their professor to remember them and it will probably be two, three or more years before they apply to grad school and that's a lot of students that have sat through their lectures.
A resume is also helpful in this instance, but by now, your Gen Yer knows this.

Job app recs. from teachers or profs:
Same as above applies.

Other letters of rec. from summer employers or employers: same rules as above apply.

And last but not least.....BE SURE TO SEND A THANK YOU NOTE!
Regardless of whether or not they were accepted or rejected, got the job or not, these people took the time to write! "Thank you" goes a long way!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I want to come back as one of my kids!

Has anyone else in the Boomer generation noticed the incredible opportunities available for our Gen Yers? Have you heard what some of these kids have gotten to do? Maybe your own have done some neat things!? Please don't misunderstand, I had a terrific upbringing with all kinds of great adventures along the way (both educational and experiential) but our kids, these days, have it pretty darn great! When else do they have a chance to try different things out? No mortgage to pay. No mouths to feed except theirs. No real responsibilities. (Except, maybe they've got loans to pay back.) And best of all, Mom and Dad are picking up the tab, or at least a portion of it. Sound familiar? These Gen Y kids have got the "marketing" thing down, they sure do know how to spin / persuade us that it's OK to do these things!

From language immersion programs in Italy, to volunteer opportunities in Costa Rica, to playing soccer in living on a Kibbutz, to building a violin in England, to competitively skiing in the summer in building reef balls on Eleuthera, marine biology in the Galapagos, summer school in New Zealand...the list goes on and on!

OK, OK, maybe there's been some adjustment in the last year due to our economy, but not much. I've read several articles related to this topic and because kids are having a tough time finding jobs or internships, these programs are hanging in there. Our kids have convinced us that if they can't find summer employment or a permanent job, then these things are "great for the resume" or "this will really broaden my perspective", whatever, loads of us are buying into this, or even suggesting this! These opportunities have been available for years and lots of our kids have been able to take advantage of them. I know mine have. They've had some incredible experiences! I, of course, am totally envious and thus the title of this blog post.

I've had numerous conversations lately with friends that have Gen Y kids and each of us are having to have "reality talks" with our kids. Especially those kids that have recently graduated from college and they're trying to figure out what they're going to do with their life. Some's approach is much like it was while in college, find a program or research a trip online and figure, "this is it! Mom and Dad will definitely go for this." And then reality sets in or "the talk" happens, who's going to pay for this? Or maybe, who's going to pay for this to continue? Maybe the summer between soph. and junior year, but now? as a recent college grad?
A couple of my favorite comments by friends were:
"I've told my son he'd better find an insurance salesman and ask him if he sells 'status quo insurance' and buy a boat load of it!" ~a Dad.
"I've told my kids by 30 they need to have a real job with benefits and a 401k, because the gravy train will be over! This train will be traveling a different track!" ~a Mom

Reality. Sometimes a tough thing. But the experiences these kids are having before "getting there", pretty incredible! And I must admit, these experiences have indeed broadened their horizons, heck, I want to go to New Zealand! :)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Summer, they're pushing the envelope!

Well, I don't know about the rest of you, but this summer in the northeast has gotten off to a very soggy start, we've been growing webs between our toes! But the rain hasn't curtailed the behavior of our Gen Yers. "School's out for the summer!" It's almost a mantra, and when it comes to the "rules of the school year" it seems to be the summer when the envelope gets pushed the most, and the rules seem to be pushed right out the window! Or at least there's a serious attempt to throw them out. :) This isn't just about kids who've just graduated from high school, this is also about college age kids and even kids who are living at home after college.

For those of you parents that have been through this, you know exactly what I'm talking about. For those yet to get there, trust me, you will!

Kids and curfews. Kids waking you when they get in to let you know they're home (as requested). How do these apply on a "school night?" A work night? The weekends? Over the fourth? And I'm afraid this is a debated topic when they come home for Thanksgiving, for the holidays, for any of their breaks!

You've got rules in your home regarding curfews. Maybe it's midnight, maybe it's a phone call at midnight to let you know where they are. And then you ask them to wake you when they get home, because if they don't, when you wake up to pee you can't help but go check their bedroom to be sure they're safe and sound. Then of course YOUR REM sleep has been interrupted and if they're not home, then you're worried; you're texting, or calling....Does that curfew stand every night of the week? After seven days of midnights, or one, two, three in the mornings, I don't know about you, but that gets exhausting! Not for them particularly, for you! Maybe you can reach a 'weekend understanding' and the weekdays they're in at a more reasonable hour, say 10. My mother had this saying, "nothing good happens after midnight." That's another one of those things I've adopted, to my kids' chagrin.

Well, something's gotta give, the proverbial 'you know what' hits the fan...and one thing I think many of us can agree on, it's not pretty when Mom blows her gasket. Usually this happens after Mom has had virtually no sleep or at least no continuous sleep and she's been working, keeping the house running smoothly, getting meals on the table, doing the laundry and she feels that she's doing everything and the kid, feeling or acting ever so entitled (or at least it seems that way to you), isn't doing anything but staying out til all hours, sleeping in until noon (if there's no job to get up for....) Does this sound familiar?

If it does, communication is key! Communication between you and your kid. Be upfront! Don't get to the "gasket blowing stage" if you can avoid it. Let them know what your expectations are, they'll let you know what theirs are, and then come to consensus or a compromise.

As your high school graduate is stretching, feeling their oats, saying their "good byes," working on their independence, etc. they tend to push these buttons the most. The second runner up is the kid home from college, having experienced independence and making decisions on their own, they're not used to parents and their rules, and then comes the kid that's been living on their own, 21 and over, and they can't understand why you need to be woken up or why it matters what time they come in at night? Hello?! (Just wait until their parents).

I have to confess, that I was surprised to hear my mother's words come out of my mouth when I first experienced this as a Mom, summer-days run into nights-run into days-curfew vs. no curfew-discussion: "as long as you're living under our roof, it's our rules..." YIKES! I'll also confess that I didn't quite come down that hard, we worked out compromise and consensus. When I was able to articulate how I felt, how rude I thought they were being and how I felt taken advantage of, that though they may not need a lot of sleep, some of us do...and the guilt started to set in (their guilt), they got the's improved dramatically! They don't hear their mother's wrath or maybe they were hearing nagging or as I re-read this, whining...Sleep! Sleep is key! But more importantly, communication, it tends to work things out!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

First time college go-ers

For those of you that have kids heading off to college for the first time, the summer tends to be made up of lots of planning, certainly from Mom's perspective. The logistics of getting from home to college are probably the most covered topics. How are you going to get Johnny and all of his stuff to college? How is Susie going to get all of those shoes there? Do you ship everything? Ship some? Buy some there? Will everything pack into the back of the car? Do you ship the bike? Buy a clunker? Us mothers are doing all of this stuff in our heads, trying to figure this all out. Your kid is thinking about their roommate, maybe about the room set-up, should they "loft" their bed? If you're anything like me, I needed a "visual" so I could help my kids think about storage, after all, everything that they bring to school has to fit in this approx. 9 X 12 foot space. Good news: More and more schools are providing pictures online of the residence and even the dorm rooms, some are providing measurements too. All very helpful information. This is much better than when you got the visual the day of arrival.

But there are some other things to think about. Here are suggestions of a few things that are some of my takeaways that you don't hear much about:
1) Look into tuition insurance. You never know what life brings: mono, death of a loved one, depression, the list goes on and on, so if a child has to "stop out" for a period of time, like a semester or quarter, you're covered! Having that insurance is a safety net.
2) Money conversation BEFORE they go. Most likely it's the first time they've had to budget. Discuss allowance, what you as parents think that should cover. Who's paying for books, dry cleaning, entertainment, their vacations...
The colleges have meal plans and "cards" (like credit cards) that take care of basics. Every college is different, some have you write a lump sum check and your kid uses it as a debit card kind of program, others charge you for the meal plan up front and whether or not your child has eaten all meals they have paid for, you don't get the money back (some have programs where the leftover money rolls into the next semester, but may not roll into the next year,) read the fine print. Some of the cards take care of laundry, others you need good old fashioned quarters. Fine print!
3) Now that your child is 18 they're considered an adult, but you as a parent have expectations. Discuss with them checking off the box with their college that you as a parent get sent their grades, if that's included in some of your expectations. No joke. You may be picking up the tab or some of it, but as far as the school is concerned that's a privacy issue. I know several kids who started struggling with college and all of that freedom and if their parents weren't getting their grades they had no way of knowing there'd been a's not high school.

I'm sure you'll hear loads of tips from your network of friends that cover Twin XLs, buying storage bins there or shipping them, going online and ordering and then picking up at Bed Bath and Beyond or WalMart, wherever, at the store close to the college, rather than paying for shipping. Computer/ printer conversation, telephone plans...

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I will always be the mother!

A common phrase in our household, that covers layers of meaning:

As the boys pass me by in height, there's inevitably a moment when one of them looks down at me, pats the top of my head, has a Cheshire grin on his face... I say, "just remember, I will always be the mother."

When they get their driver's license and they grab the keys to the car..."just remember, I will always be the mother." This time I have the Cheshire grin!

When they graduate from high school and they are feeling a real surge of independence, and they're pushing the envelope on that independence all summer long, especially in the curfew department..."just remember, I will always be the mother."

When they head off to college and they're experiencing that huge transition from big fish to little fish in a big sea, the emphasis on various syllables may be a bit different, but...."I will always be your mother."

When they turn 21 and decide to jump out of a plane and sky dive for the first time, because they could... and you hear about it after the fact, because they know you'd worry, or try to talk them out of it, or say "can I join you?" You flip or semi-flip, and somewhere in this flipping out you say, "because I'm your mother, I will always be your mother. Mother's say stuff like this regardless of your age."

When they're home for a visit after they've "moved out" and live on their own, working in the big city, and you get up in the middle of the night...take a moment and pad down the hall, looking in their bedrooms, just checking to be sure they're there....guilty....they just may say to you the next morning, "Mom, I'm 25, you don't have to check on me!" and I say, "I will always be the mother."

They call you from the ER, God forbid, and they say "Mom, I'm OK, just wanted to let you know I'm here, not feeling so good." And you instantly go into Mom-mode, asking a million questions, wishing like heck that you could be there to hold their hand (but they're hours away by car or plane) and so thankful that they called, that they are ABLE to call, "I'm calling because I know you're my mother and I know you'd want to know and I know that you'd be pissed as heck if you found out after the fact...." And they're right, about all of the above.

I guess that's what we really want, is just to be communicated with and to have the chance to discuss stuff with them. It's not our life, it's theirs, I get that... and as they get older and go through life's experiences, they make more and more choices and decisions on their own (just what you want and hope for) but there's no denying, it sure is nice to have stuff run by you!

After all, I wasn't born yesterday...another one of those phrases...been through some life experiences myself, know a few things (though sometimes they don't think so)...

Thank God that I'll always be their mother!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Connections and Use your manners!

Today, kids (Gen Y) are much more apt to think about "who they know" or more specifically, "who their parents know" or "who their friends' parents know" or "who their parents' friends know" when it comes to job hunting. Unlike our generation, when a lot of us resisted those parental "connections"...(why were we like that? What were we thinking? It probably was the residual of "anti-establishment" stuff, I don't know. But I do remember that if my parents suggested I call some one of their friends or tried to encourage me to go "across the street" and talk to a neighbor, because they worked for a company that had a good "management training program", I basically said, "thanks, but no thanks. I can do this on my own.") In retrospect, foolish.

Here's the catch, however, with our's how they handle this connection, this contact, that's critical. What am I talking about? Here's an example: The daughter of a friend of yours, Sally, calls you on the phone and asks if you'd connect her with a friend of yours that her Mom told her you know in a particular line of business. Your first reaction may be to say, "sure." So you pick up the phone and call friend, Jenny, and ask if she'd mind sitting down with your friend's daughter who's just graduated from college and talk to her. You tell Jenny that Sally is interested in her line of work and would love to get more information about her vocation. Jenny says "have Sally call me and I'll meet with her." You pass along all of the contact information to Sally, thinking that Sally will do all of the "right things" and be polite, follow through on suggestions and say "thank you." Not so fast. Not always the case.

Whatever happened to good old fashioned manners? You know, Emily Post kind of manners: Please and thank you. If you say you're going to do something, you actually do it.

In the handful of times that I've personally experienced making those connections, the varying degrees of how Gen Y handles this is like night and day. Some kids are terrific, saying and doing all of the "right things" to all parties: to the connector (me), to the person who's sat down with them, to the various job connections that meeting led to, etc. But others, are the pits. No pleases or thank yous, no follow throughs to anyone, just going through the motions, kind of. This is not good.

To: the kids asking for the connection: It's amazing how a good old fashioned thank you note, either in snail mail version or even email version (I'll take it anyway I can, at this point) goes a long way. Showing up on time. Having done your homework about the company, even a little homework, following through on suggestions...keeping in mind that in a distant way, you are a reflection of the person that has connected you. And oh by the way, that person may be a contact you 'd like again in the future, so don't screw this up.
As the connector: learn from my mistakes. Be clear up front with this Gen Y kid. Tell them that you'd be happy to connect them (assuming that you believe in them) as long as they follow through, "say please and thank you," and remember that this is indeed a favor and should be treated as such.

There's a fun book out by Emily Posts' great great granddaughter, "How Do You Work This Life Thing" which tackles some of this "basic" stuff. I thought this was basic, but I'm learning ... not to everyone!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Sleeping arrangements...

When I mentioned that I was going to blog about this, one of the members of my peanut gallery said, "OMG, you're kidding me?" Nope, I'm not. Here goes.
So they come home for a visit: for a weekend, for the summer or on vacation AND they bring their "significant other" with them. Where does everyone sleep? Now I "wasn't born yesterday" and I know what goes on "out there," out from under mom's watchful eye, but really? Do we all have to be privy to this when they're under our roof? The answer is "no."

Mom did you hear that? I'm sure my mom is looking down on me just smiling, because I know there was a time she had angst about this herself and now that I'm there, I can only but think about that and her. Here's the difference, she spent all kinds of time and energy moving beds around and setting up a "guest room" for our significant others and this guest room was about as far away from her child as physically possible, and though I don't really think this was the case, I think each of us kids "felt" like she was awake all night, baking, doing laundry or something, so no shenanigans would go on. I remember after I got back from my honeymoon, honeymoon is the operative word, I felt really awkward that Bob was not in the guest room and I wasn't in my old bedroom by myself. Weird, I know.

A girlfriend of mine shared that if she had to do it over, her eldest is now in their mid thirties, she would have opted for the 'separate bedrooms until marriage' (in her home) arrangement because there have been several young ladies that have bunked in with her son over the years and it's been challenging "role modeling" for the younger siblings, not to mention uncomfortable for the parents, when they think about it, so they just don't think about it.

I've brought this up in various groups recently and it's been an interesting conversation. Everyone has different feelings on this. But everyone agrees, this is one of those awkward times in our kids' lives and our lives. You'd really rather not have to deal with it, or talk about it, but when that moment arrives and he/she walks through that front door and your child gives them a warm greeting and then, suitcase in hand, your child looks at you and says, "where do you want us?" or "where do you want him/her?" You're on! That's your cue!

I also have noted, that once the precedent was set (and actually it wasn't even really set, it was just clearly more comfortable for our child not to "go there" and each were in separate bedrooms) the other siblings followed suit. Now they may say that it had nothing to do with precedent, that that's how they were the most comfortable, but I have breathed a huge sigh of relief over this. At least for the moment.

That takes care of under MY roof. Vacations are also challenging, especially if you're paying for the accommodations OR if you're at the grandparents'! My current thinking on this is same sex bunk-in together! After all, these significant others need to get to know the family, don't you agree?

Speaking of family... role reversals do tend to appear when you least expect them....sleeping arrangements for your parents when they're back in the dating world and they both come to visit....

Sunday, May 24, 2009

College Housing Decisions for Freshmen

Notifications are making their way into your kids' emailboxes or mailboxes. It's time to pick housing! They'll fill out questionnaires about their lifestyle. This is not the time to be wishing they were neat or hoping they didn't snore while sleeping, this is the time to be honest! The school is asking for a reason, so give them all of the information they'll need, so it'll be a livable match. If the music blares, say so.

I have total incoming freshman envy when it comes to the "getting to know you" piece. (That's the only envy I've got, quite frankly.) These kids have Facebook Class of 2013 at wherever university, etc. popping up all over the place, so they have a chance, months over the summer, to do some real sharing, stalking, whatever on their soon to be fellow classmates.

(We weren't told our freshman roommate's names or anything until the moment we stepped foot on campus, nothing. BTW, my Alma mater still does this, not sure how I feel about this now longstanding tradition.)

At any rate, your child can chime in on whether or not they want to be in an all frosh dorm, 4 class dorm, single sex by hall, by floor, by building, chem free....the list goes on and on. My personal favorite overall choice or recommendation is all freshmen. It's the ol'- you're all in this together, experiencing things for the first time together stuff (sometimes it's the "misery loves company" stuff). And the added bonus that of course our kids don't think about is years later, when it comes time for reunions, the freshman dorm friends are all there, or certainly in spirit. I've got a reunion coming up this fall and once again my fellow freshman dorm folks are rallying! Now I know there are those of you that had 4 class experiences and you all survived, so say something about that. But in my experience, freshman dorms are the way to go.

As for the single, double,triple question, very personal, but again, having a roommate is all part of the college experience. As a parent, getting those initial phone calls when the roommates are getting to know each other, those are some of the best "listening" phone calls. (Back to my blog on Transitions Part 1 and CU Boulder orientation).

Here's a good tip: If your kid knows anyone at the college they're headed to or was recently a student there, tell them to call them up. Ask them about housing. They know. They can give your child the real 4-1-1 on all of the different dorms at that school, what they're like, the stereotypes, how they might rate them if asked for preferences. This proved to be invaluable when it came to CU Boulder, thanks Maggie! And really helpful at Princeton and CC, thanks Jessie and Nick. And our son who's at Stanford, he got the benefit of his Mom's knowledge, and he read through the Facebook stuff, deciphering what he could.

Anecdotally, a friend's son is headed off to GW in the fall, a mother of someone already there told them not to live in a particular dorm, it was a big party dorm, "you definitely don't want to live there." They then spoke to a current junior there, and one of the first things he said was "definitely put down "X" dorm as your first choice, it's by far the best dorm. The most happening dorm, the best located dorm for freshman classes, etc." Of course that was precisely the dorm that the other mother said not to put down. Love that. Everyone's got an opinion. I think he put down the junior's suggestion as his first choice. :)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Health insurance after they graduate....????

Nobody tells you this stuff....take health insurance. Not for you, but for your kids and especially for your kids once they graduate from college. While your kids are in college they have health insurance coverage either under your or your spouse's policy OR they can be covered under a policy that the college/university offers. Well, depending on the policy, either it's over
A) when they graduate and get their diploma
B) when they turn 22
C) when they turn 25
Whatever the situation, you need to check it out. Now it's not just after they graduate when this becomes an issue, it's also when they leave or lose their job or take some time "off" before they start grad school... In that case, they may have access to COBRA. But maybe not. So what do they do? How do they stay covered? What happens if there's a lag in coverage? Is catastrophic insurance the way to go?.... These are all the questions we ask, and let me tell you, our kids aren't asking those questions, at least not at first.

Depending on your kid's circumstance, having health insurance should be a topic of conversation. Why? Because this is not a priority for your kid. They feel it's an expense that they don't want to prioritize. They're "invincible" don'tchya know. "I'm not going to get sick." "Mom, I'll be fine, I'm not going to get hurt." Whatever the quote, you've heard it, or you will!

Now if you're one of those fortunate people that has a kid employed and has a job with benefits, read no further.

When this came on my radar screen and I did some research, well, let's just say I know enough to be dangerous, which isn't much.

I'm not going to get into a conversation about health care in this country, I'll leave that up to others, but as parents of this generation, I can tell you, the options are limited and expensive. And the 'what ifs' are endless. Some of the conversations might include "catastrophic coverage." Well for some, that may be an option, but anecdotal-ly, kids are less likely to go and get something checked out or make a visit to the doctor if they're not feeling well, because that "visit is too expensive and I don't have the money." As a result, they wait until it really IS serious (catastrophic) and the seriousness may have been avoided. Remember those "well-baby" visits you took your child to when they were little? Our "big kids" aren't that likely to go voluntarily to their "well-baby" visit, their physical. And they sure as heck won't be psyched to pay the full amount that the doctor charges for a physical! So if they're going to get a physical and take care of themselves in a preventative way....they need health insurance!

As parents we know the importance of having health insurance and it really seems to make more and more sense not to have any dead time between coverage.

If your kid is embarking on the real world, now that they've graduated and they're not headed back to school this fall, or if your kid is without a job that pays benefits, have this conversation! It'll be worth it!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Email, Facebook, Twitter, Cell, Text....Get with it!

OK, Quit dragging your feet. We've got to get with the program! I have friends that are digging their heels in. They do not want to "play." If you want to be informed and you want to be a part of your kids lives as they embark on this stage of their lives, you really need to adopt the "when in Rome" theory. This is their turf, they've embraced it and there's no turning back. Cell phones are everywhere and what they can do is amazing!

This reminds me of when my mother brought a pushbutton phone to my grandparents' house and their response was "what do I need that for?" "I have a phone." "It works fine." "I like the rotary dial." "With my cataracts, I can feel the openings and count so I can dial." "I have no interest in learning how to use that fancy phone...." etc. etc.

Well guess what sports fans? Some of us are sounding a bit like them! Yikes!

Reading yesterday's NYT, there was an article in the Weekend in Review section about India and how this new world of communication is changing everything faster than a speeding light. "A Pocket-Size Leveler in an Outsize Land." They've skipped the whole landline era. They've leaped into this digital age and texting, using their cell phones is transforming public policy...

So here we are. Baby Boomers in this digital age. Some of us are actually making more of an attempt to join this digitized era...I actually have an iPhone! I don't mean to be tooting my own horn, I'll admit that I have been a little reluctant in this area, but now that I know what I know...Aside from feeling very "hip and trendy," I really like it! It's so user friendly and believe it or not, pretty intuitive, at least to my way of thinking. I'll admit that I've always been an Apple person, maybe because I went to college in that neck of the woods, but when I actually got a tutor to help me navigate this world of computers back in 1992, it was on a Mac. And being the stubborn person I am, switching to a PC? Never! I'm glad that being a "hold out" has actually worked out. I'm sorry to say that we cast our vote with Sony and Beta 25 years ago and you know how that went....we have a Beta player just in case we ever want to watch those tapes...crazy, I know. At any rate, back to the digital age....

As every month goes by, I'm communicating more and more with my kids by text. Granted, it's nothing like a good conversation with them, but it's a quick "check in." I've also just started Facebook chatting (I'm not sure that's actually the lingo, someone help me out and tell me what this is called), not with my kids, but with friends of theirs! Love that! It's much like the AIM, but for some reason it seems to move a lot smoother, especially if you have the Facebook application for your iPhone. Now of course this assumes you're ON Facebook as much as they are, and I simply am not. My kids have it as a "constant", I don't, but I suppose if that's how I start hearing from them, well then, I'm open to it.

I think that's the key: being open! Rather than digging in your heels and saying "I won't do Facebook" or "I have no interest in learning how to text".... think about it. You can learn! You know they say you can ward off Alzheimer's with things like Sudoku or Bridge or crossword puzzles or learning a foreign language, I'm thinking that learning how to do all of this social media and getting techno-savvy will ward it off too! And quite frankly, it's much more fun than some of those other things! So get with it!
A good read...interesting...
Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants: Marc Prensky

Monday, May 4, 2009

Graduation Season/Diploma pressure/Next steps....

'Tis the season! As I said in an earlier blog post... we hold our breath, cross our fingers and pray our kids make it through this season in one piece! But probably the bigger piece, the forever-after piece, is the actual graduation, diploma-in-hand piece! There's also that closure piece. Both for your kids and for you! First, your kids. Whether it's high school or college this is an emotional time made up of the "last" times, but it's also a time when your kid is tying up loose ends; Paying library fines, parking tickets, being sure they've got all their work completed and tests taken and passed, room keys turned in,....that diploma is in the balance. Parents EXPECT you to receive it come graduation! I don't know about you, but I sure remember feeling the pressure. That "expectation" pressure from my parents. I know my kids felt that pressure from us too. Aside from the expectation about the diploma and actually graduating, your kids are thinking about what all of this means,: how they won't see all of these people again in this environment, how it's all going to change... everyone handles this in their own way. Some kids are thrilled to be finishing up, to be moving on to the next step, never to return to this high school or this college; others are nervous as heck, it's the big unknown out there! They're also thinking about next steps:
getting a job
starting a job
making ends meet
finding an apartment
a roommate
paying off those loans....Maybe as a parent, that's optimistic....maybe they're really just thinking about the "immediate stuff," about the goodbyes or the "how are we going to make this relationship work being so far apart?" or trying to figure out when they'll all be together again, or how to fix that hole in the wall of their dorm room so they get their cleaning deposit back, or "what do I do with all of this junk that I don't want anymore?" or "how do I talk my parents into coming to help me move out?"

Are they feeling the actual pressure of receiving the diploma? Do they want to move on? Are they thinking about immediate next steps? Or are they thinking more long term?

What were you thinking about then?
Is it that different now?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Quick college acceptance update:

For years our high school posted "the list". The list of students and the colleges they decided to go to, this evolved into a giant map of the US with push pins in spots marked with names of the colleges and the kids attending them. The map was in the entry hall...then moved to the guidance office hall, then inside the office, then...
That stopped. Initiated by adults. The thinking was that this was "too much", too difficult for the kids, too stressful for the kids at an already stressful time... We adults know best, was the thinking...

Fast forward....
Over the last few years the seniors in our high school (as in others across the country) have brought their rejection letters into school and posted them on bulletin boards in school....they've "dubbed" this the "wall of shame." Initially, many parents were uncomfortable about this, some were horrified, but the kids' won and there it stands. The thinking there, as explained by several "posters", "misery loves company", you can't take this personally, everyone goes through it ...

This year's senior class has decided to to something different...they've posted "the list" on Facebook! More and more join everyday. If you go on Facebook and look for Groups, there are numerous groups that have popped up in the last two weeks of different senior classes across the country and their "list." What do the adults think? Clearly the kids don't care, this is their domain, their world, their decisions... and it's "out there"...

We as adults felt more and more uncomfortable with "the list" being posted within the privacy of our own schools' walls, never mind publishing the list somewhere! But our kids have no problem putting it out there for all to see.... interesting ...

What do you think???

May 1st is just around the corner....decision time!

For most May 1st is just another May Day, and that's it, but for those of us who have seniors in high school or had them, you remember; it's decision time, mail in check time, let the college know you're coming time!

What is your kid thinking? How are they making the decision?
Did you send them to or did you go with them to Admit weekend?
Check the college's website?
Did they go on Facebook and join the Class of 2013 page for that school?
Did they talk or text with kids they already know at the college?
Maybe you pulled out that college ranking book yet again....

Your kids have so many different options to try and figure this out. And since it's deadline time, you can't procrastinate much longer, they can't procrastinate much longer. When I think of the ways each of my kids went about this...all so different! If your kid was lucky enough to go back to the school or to Admit weekend in the last month, the question to ask them is: "wasn't it a different feeling than when you were there for the first time?" Now they're in the driver's seat. The college wants them to accept their accept. They've done a very careful, deliberate job accepting them because they help make up a great class. What they bring to the table is unique and is a piece of the puzzle that the college wants. Knowing that helps. So what are they thinking? What I've learned is they walked around the campus, looking at the other kids there, trying to see what kind of stuff seems to be going on. Maybe they went to a class or two, listened to the professor(s), all the time thinking, "can I see myself here? Do I see "my people" here?" They've talked to kids there, or maybe the school did something more organized and they (you) listened to a schpeel (sp?) from the Dean of Admissions, the University President, maybe the Dean of Students. They might have attended a student performance or maybe a lacrosse game. They might have joined in on a frisbee game on the lawn outside of some dorm. Maybe they spent the night on campus....that was an experience in and of itself. ( Just remind them that next year it won't be a sleeping bag on someone's floor, they'll have their own bed.) The whole time thinking, observing and trying NOT to "judge a book by its' cover" but trying to see if they see if this is a fit.

While they were experiencing this some of the things they may be trying to figure out were: if the girls "dress" for classes, ie., wear makeup, do their hair, or is it more casual and kids actually roll out of bed for that 8 or 9am class and wear their PJ bottoms across campus to class.
The questions to ask are: Does any of that matter to you? Do you "have to have" a date for a football game? You laugh, but some schools have this as part of their culture. Appealing to some and not so much to others. What do kids here do to have fun or socialize? Do you "have to" go greek in order to have a good time? Does everybody party downtown? Does that mean you're out of luck until you're 21? Is there a "chem free" dorm? Would that environment make you feel more comfortable? Are there any "theme houses" or dorms? Would that make you feel more comfortable? What about the actual make up of the dorms themselves? Are there coed floors, single sex floors/halls? All freshman dorms? Do you have "guaranteed housing" for 4 years?

These are the kinds of things I think they're thinking about, and in my opinion, they should be....all good stuff. But I know that us parents are thinking about this a little differently...

We're thinking that this is a huge investment. Probably one of the best investments will ever make...their education, but nonetheless a BIG investment. Hopefully, we've done our homework and during the application process we took care of satisfying our own questions about academics, access to professors, opportunities available to our kids, etc. What we're focusing on now is: that it's a safe place. That we're going to be able to see our kid on occasion, either by us traveling there or them coming home. That it's got lots of different options for them. That there are resources on campus to help them be successful. That there is a medical clinic nearby. That they're going to be fed on the weekends. That there are people (adults) around to answer their questions to support them....That WE "see" kids on campus that WE think look like their kind of people...

What happens over the next couple of days is hopefully a meeting of the minds...we parents are trying or should be trying to "let go" (for a moment) and let our kid make the decision, but boy oh boy, we know this is a pretty big decision...and believe me, we chime in, and sometimes we're not even asked. A little retrospect: yes, the decision is a big one. It's important and it is indeed a big financial commitment. But something that is also true, is that everyone's human, nothing is forever and if this doesn't end up working out for whatever reason, your kid can always transfer. Daunting I know, (especially at this particular 'decision time' moment) but knowing loads of people who have switched gears after a year or two.. they didn't just survive, they thrived!

OK, enough procrastinating....get that "check in the mail!"

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Senior year, Spring Quarter, high school...

I sure remember this time, do you?
Well, sitting in the parent seat is a wee bit different. My kids will tell you that my 'Mom line", "do you think I was born yesterday?" Is one of those comments where they'd pause for a minute and really think before they said anything...and they sure as heck better be telling me the truth. :) I'm getting ahead of myself...

Observations: Spring quarter senior year is one of those quarters where we hold our breath, keep our fingers crossed and may even pray...those little darlings of ours push the envelope this time of year and if they don't either you're not paying attention, they've got you fooled or you have been truly blessed with an angel! What do I mean by pushing the envelope? Well, it's spring! The snow is gone, the crocuses are up, daylight is longer (thank God!), the birds are chirping and everyone seems to be feeling a little more "robin red breasted". :) You get my drift. Hormones are moving and grooving and our seniors have all heard from their various colleges; decisions have been made, checks have been mailed, stickers on cars, new college T shirts are donned....and "nothing can stop us" seems to be the mantra. "We are invincible," is another one. Hold onto your hats, should be our mantra! This is the time when it's the last....everything. The last game, the last prom, the last musical, the last time I'll get to be with my friends, the last assembly, the last class...the last....If you've had a curfew for your kid, say midnight, "the last" whatever is the classic plea to be allowed to stay out later or to even go. Those big puppy dog eyes pleading with you that they just have to be allowed to stay out all night after prom, "everyone gets to, I can't possibly be the only one who isn't, I'm going to college soon! Mom, please!" Well, you might just acquiesce. I did. They had a point. But that doesn't mean that I didn't hold my breath!

I would be the Mom that called the parents of the home they were allegedly going to, I'd also be the Mom that had yet another "talk" about making good choices, I'd also be the Mom that would tell each of them that no matter what, they could call me anytime of night and I would come and pick them up, no questions asked. Sleep? When do we get to sleep? Certainly not through the night and I'm afraid that's the case every time they come home for vacations or weekends or summers for.....I don't know, ever?!? Geeze, I hope not. But until they're 21, there's angst. And even then, there's angst. But back to senior year.

As we know, they're not invincible and if they do make a poor choice, there are consequences. And depending on the infraction those consequences ratchet up quickly: Be it with their parents, the school or the law. When the school and the law get involved, some of these poor choices can really impact their not going to the college they had planned on, having the infraction on their record, serving time, etc. Not good. Why does everything take on a little clearer edge at this time, well, because most of these seniors are now 18 and that means they are adults. I don't know if it made much of an impression, but I did have that discussion with each of my kids as they celebrated their 18ths, nice Mom, huh?

Hopefully, we've laid a pretty good foundation and they WILL make good decisions. But what with "senior pranks", "senior skip days" and all of that wonderful timeless stuff...we will hold our breath, cross our fingers and maybe even pray!
I KNOW my mother did and I sure did and I expect my kids will too when they're parents...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Transitions...Part Two (College to the Real World)

College to the real world....
Now this transition is really something! Not that the transition from high school to college isn't, but for some reason the "layers" are deeper with this transition. What do I mean? Again, think back...You've graduated from college. Over the course of four years (for most) you now really know the campus, where things are, how to find things, how to access information; you have friends, you've developed a routine. OK, your routine may start at 10/11 a.m. and it may end about 2 in the morning, but it's more or less a routine. You know where you can go to get work done, you know where you can get food (already made), you know where to find your friends, you can usually just walk down the hall of your dorm and there is instant gratification....FRIENDS.... someone else most likely is paying tuition, room and board, or somehow that's taken care of....maybe you've lived off campus for a year so you've experienced some of the semi "real world", but not really. Semi, because there's been some bill paying and juggling who's paying what, who's contacting the landlord, etc. But it's different. It's not really the real world, you still have people around you that know and love you....

OK, now for the real world. Most likely you've moved to a city. You may not know a soul or only know a handful of people and they're not your bffs from college or even high school, maybe you're lucky and some of them are. Nonetheless, they're all spread out all over the city. With any luck your move to the "big city" is because you've got a job there. That's a whole other blog. You've had to figure out how to find an apartment, find a roommate, and that's the tip of the iceberg. The biggest change from your last four years is the instant access to people you know and their proximity to you Your comfort level is on tilt. How do you meet people, how do you meet people you'd like to do stuff with? There's suddenly a realization that the Admissions office of your college did you a huge favor, they provided you with dozens and dozens of people that were potential friends. Now you're on your own.

Your schedule or time clock is so different to what you'd become accustomed to in college. The workplace expects you to be at work and ready to work by 8 or 9 AM. Novel idea, but that means budgeting your time accordingly. Are you a morning exerciser? Or are you better at working out at night? Someone has always told you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but you haven't actually eaten b'fast for years, at least not while at school, but this whole working thing, makes you hungry. How long does it take to get to work, how are you going to commute there? When do you squeeze in grocery shopping, doing laundry, going to the bank, paying bills, doctor's appointments!!!! The list seems endless. How do you get all of this stuff done AND work AND meet people AND socialize AND exercise...this can be daunting...this can be scary and this can be lonely...and us parents seem to have forgotten this.

The communication shifts. Welcome to the real world!

The workplace: Low man on the totem pole. Nine times out of ten that's usually what they are. So what if they have a college degree, that's assumed. They've got to 'earn" their pay, their place, the respect, responsibility...this is a tough adjustment coming out of a college experience where they've been encouraged to think on their own, take on responsibilities, be in charge of something (a frat, a school newspaper, an RA....), challenge ideas, take risks, try something new, and they're told they can "have it all"...all of which are absolutely part of the college experience, this is a "safe place" to test the waters. But in the workplace, it's different. One of the most challeging factors seems to be age differences: you no longer are surrounded by people all of your same age group. Where your age group is the majority. The people you report to are either Boomers or Gen Xers. Maybe your son or daughter has a job with peers like at Google or Facebook, but that's certainly not the norm. Now your kid has to try to figure out how to "do this" , how to do the work at a satisfactory level, but for whom? For the employer, the boss, the team, themselves? How are you evaluated? How often? Very different than a report card after every semester.

The apartment: assuming there's a roommate: who's responsible for what? The rent? The various utility bills? Calling the landlord when something goes on the fritz? Cleaning the apartment, taking out the garbage...

Meeting people: you don't know anyone. What are your interests and how do you pursue them? Do you socialize with people from work? What about date people from work? Have you ever heard the term, "you shouldn't dip your pen into company ink?" Is that realistic? You spend a lot of time with these people. What happens if you do decide to date someone from work, what happens if it doesn't work out, and there you are, every day, working with that person. How do you get "out there?" Join a workout facility. Volunteer in an area that interests you. Take some classes at night. Join a team. Go to church, temple, a place of worship. More and more museums are focusing on this age group, starting up "social hours."

What's different with Gen Y is gone are the days of 50 years with a company and the gold watch. We haven't seen those days either. These kids aren't taking their first job out of college and thinking they're in it for the long haul. So not only are they transitioning from college to the real world, but they're real world and our definition is different. Somehow we have to each come to terms with how they're going to support themselves. And the pivotal words in that sentence are "support themselves."

They could be telling you that they are headed out of the country to teach english as a second language or they're going to work for Teach for America or the Peace Corps, which is a two year stint. They may say they're headed for the mountains and they're going to try to piece it together working for a ski company or a restaurant or both for a couple of years, trying to get in all of the ski days they can. "What's the rush?" "I have the rest of my life to work?" As a parent you just might envy this thinking, I sure didn't feel it was OK to do this. Bob and I have often said "we want to come back as one of our kids." From where I sit, they've got a pretty good gig. But I don't actually say that (well, I have now), but even in these lousy economic times, they've got neat opportunities. As daunting as this transition is and can be, somehow they survive. As I've said before, listen, lots of listening.....

Monday, April 6, 2009

Transitions....Part One (from High School to College)

I didn't remember how challenging the transition from high school to college was or the challenge of graduating from college and launching into the "real world" was. But I must confess, the memories come rushing back when one of my kids goes through this stage!
First, high school to college...

Think back, you leave the comfort of your own home, your hometown, the use of a car, stocked fridge, laundry magically done and you head off to a place where you MAY know a handful of people, you might not know a soul. There you are in a new/strange place, a dorm room, remember those? About 9X12 if you're lucky, two twin XLs, two desks, two desk chairs, maybe a mini fridge / microwave combo...and that's about it. A roommate from who knows where, a bathroom that you share with probably a dozen others, a cafeteria/dining room (I use the term loosely) where you eat with hundreds, off of a tray, mail delivered to a P.O. Box remember. How often you covered the following questions/topics:
Where are you from?
Is it cold there?
How come you don't have an accent?
Do you know what you're going to major in?
Did you go to public or private?
Do you have any brothers or sisters?
Do you play a sport?
Where else did you apply? ....

Ok, now that I've got you reminiscing....put yourself in your kid's shoes. You have to be "on" all the time, or at least it seems that way. You are just getting to know your roommate, meeting kids in your dorm, learning where things are on campus, you're trying to figure out just how much of the reading you HAVE to read for your class to get by/to pass the tests/to get an "A" in the class. (And that in and of itself is a big change from high school where there are rubrics and POWERSCHOOL so you know almost minute by minute how you're doing. In college, there's a midterm and a final, maybe a paper thrown in here and there, but absolutely no idea how you're actually doing.) Then of course, you throw into the mix, doing your own laundry, budgeting all of this "free" time (gone are the days of 8-2 in school), trying to fit in exercise, running errands (how do you get to Target if you don't have a car?), socializing and just how you want to do that (is it frat parties or hanging in your dorm or at the student union???), who exactly are you going to socialize with, and then of course homework, after all academics is the reason you're there, at least that's what we parents say, right?

There's a lot of new adjustments in your kid's life when they start college.

One of the best sessions I attended for parents during "Freshman Orientation" (I put that in quotes because though that's what it was called, it wasn't only for the freshman it was for the parents of freshman too) was at University of Colorado at Boulder. They ran an orientation for parents simultaneously to the freshman's. The topics both groups covered were the same or just about the same, but the delivery was very different. For us parents, one of the sessions was on resources the college had and 'letting go.' Instead of simply providing us with a list of resources (that was enclosed in your packet) they asked for two volunteers. Those folks got up on stage with the facilitator, a college psychiatrist, and role played several different scenarios: you're the student, you're the parent-phone home and complain about your roommate staying up all night with the music blaring or another one, student / parent, different phone call, this time parent tells student that "your father and I are getting a divorce." Whoa! Then this psychiatrist had us all (probably 1000 parents in this large auditorium) count off by 4, she told all #4's to stand. She said that by the time our then freshman graduated 4 years later, this is how many of us would be separated/divorced. Let me tell you, you could hear a pin drop, that was a real show stopper. She went on to tell us that CU Boulder had resources galore for our kids to help them navigate their feelings, emotions, financial concerns, etc. if unfortunately they found themselves in this situation. And just like them, we had resources in our own hometowns as well. She implored us not to "use our children as our couch". In other words, seek professional help or the counsel of friends, but don't use your child as your psychiatrist, marriage counselor or sounding board. Not in this situation. She had witnessed all too many times terrible situations with kids ranging from 18-22+ where they just couldn't handle the emotional stress and strain their parent(s) put on them during this very difficult time in all of their lives. I'll never forget that. She told us and reminded us that we were parents, so "act" like parents.

In each of these scenarios the common thread was accessing resources locally and letting go. In the first scenario, listen and acknowledge what they're saying, ask questions, but don't try to solve their problem for them, encourage them to work it out for themselves, utilizing resources in the dorm, on campus, discussing it with the appropriate people, etc. Another thing that just popped into my head, a woman I know was Dean of Students at Bowdoin College, she once said that her title really should have been "Dean of Parents" because she could count on two hands the number of students that actually came through her door and conversely the number of parents that would call or email her was countless! Bowdoin needed CU's role play and psychiatrist presentation. Though I don't know statistically, I'd guess that CU had pretty good results because of that presentation. Here we are 7 years later and I ran into a fellow parent from then and she and I both talked about how impactful that was and how we took that advice in many aspects of our parenting with our various kids...don't use our kids as our couch and encourage our kids to use their for the "letting go" piece....
I'm always working on that.... :)

Next blog, the transition from college to the "real world".

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Vacations With Gen Y

As the kids go through the school years, vacations or vacationing becomes more of a challenge. What's the challenge? For the kids, being able to TAKE a vacation, but from a Mom's perspective, take a vacation as a family.

First, there's sports. If your child is an athlete you're screwed. Not really, but from a vacation vantage point you are. As a friend of older kids than mine once said, if your kids play hockey or a winter sport, forget taking a family vacation from November through April until they graduate! Just forget it! If your kid isn't an athlete, you still have to juggle the family calender, especially if you have more than one child. For twenty years we lived by the school calender(s), going on vacation when the schools' said it was vacation.

Now that two are out of college and in the "real world" and two are in two different colleges, our "vacation" schedule has taken a significant hit or shift. It's virtually impossible to vacation as a family during the "school year." Different vacation schedules. Oh yes, they all have Thanksgiving Day off and Christmas Day and New Year's Day, but that's about it. Then there's the geographic consideration and of course they all live in different states, so who's going to travel where? Who's going to pay for it? Do they even want to take those precious "vacation days" with their parents, I mean really....Well, they do if you're paying and they do if you pick a neat spot to spend some time together. It doesn't have to be anything over the top, but preferably where the sun shines, where there's lots to do, and everybody gets their own bed.

It takes work to plan a family vacation with kids that all live out of the household. What seems to work is summertime. It seems that everyone's got summer fever and the thought of being able to have a change of scenery is welcomed by all.

The other vacation factor that looms is the "significant other". Those kids of yours that have a boyfriend or girlfriend. Pretty soon, they're asking if those people can be included, thus the dynamic shifts. Is that such a bad thing? Absolutely not, but it's different. It makes the vacation accommodations more challenging, where's everyone sleeping (that's a whole other blog)? It makes the interactions between siblings change a bit, between parents and kids, parents and sig. others....Again, not a bad thing, but a change.

Every mother that I speak to relishes the times when she has all of her own kids under the same roof at the same time....listening to the banter, sharing stories, giving advice, listening...these Moms are the ones that are almost "empty nesters" (one high schooler still around) or are empty nesters. We all feel like it's a gift being with our family, so a 'family vacation' takes on a whole new meaning than when they were younger and around all the time. You've "worked" for it and planned it and when they all can come, take their "coveted vacation time" with their FAMILY, well there's no better gift! That's all I need!!!!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Can I run something by you?

or "Do you have a minute?"  Don't you just love when they call and ask you that?  I LOVE that! That is code for: I want to talk and I want to talk to YOU.  

Let's talk about some of the things they run by you:

What classes should I take?
How do you make that chicken you cook?
Should I take vacation days to fly to that wedding or should I take the red-eye so I don't "waste" a day?
I've got this roommate dilemma...
How do I hang a mirror?
What should I give her for Valentine's Day?  
How many deductions should I take...what exactly are deductions?
How do I find a "primary care physician?"
A group of us want to go into the city, do you have any ideas about where we could stay?
I've been trying to get a job this summer and nothing's working out?
What kind of olive oil do you use?
My shirt has turned pink, what did I do wrong?

The list is endless and that's a good thing!

Of course many of the inquiries can be answered very quickly and succinctly, but lots of them involve conversation and if we know what's best, loads of listening.  That's right, that's what's best.  I know there are times we're desperate to just tell them what to do.  But we can't.  We need to let them work through some of these things...we can certainly "guide them" and offer thoughts and ideas, but the days of "telling them what to do" are least for those of our kids that are now in college and have graduated and in the working world.  Now those of you that have kids in high school, you have control, you "own" the keys (if you get my drift), so you still have real control, but in some ways you need to start letting go.

(If you haven't read, take a look at:  "Letting Go: A Parents' Guide to Understanding the College Years" by Kevin Levin Coburn and Madge Lawrence Treeger.  It outlines the four years of college and gives you a "heads up" as to what to expect.  As several have always said :  "we're only as good as the information we have" so gather lots of information!)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Acceptances/Rejections: Colleges/Jobs

It's that time of year.  Thick or thin envelope?  But guess what?  No more thick and thin envelopes.  It's almost all on email now or on a website.  What's up with that?  I know what's up with that....but I used to enjoy holding the envelope up to the lightbulb trying to read through the exterior to see what that infamous letter said.  You can't believe it?  Believe it.  Guilty.  I know, pathetic right?  Well, I have this "thing" about allowing my kids' privacy so I don't open anything addressed to them (at least not intentionally).  So when it's college acceptance time, same rules apply.  But that doesn't mean a mother can't be curious.  So there'd I'd be trying to "see" anything I could through that envelope.  Talk about wishing I were Superman!  Well, it's all you're leaning over your child's shoulder (if they let you) as they type in their password and waiting, waiting....and then there it is....either...Congratulations!  Or "due to, we've had an unprecedented number of applicants... blah blah blah"....That's when your inner cheerleader comes out, you're either jumping up and down (literally or figuratively) or you've launched into a "boost them up dialogue", telling them there are other schools, great schools and it will all work out, or there's doing a gap year, or OK there probably is grabbing the box of kleenex, giving them that Mom hug, and being their biggest shoulder to cry on.  But once you've validated their feelings and maybe even yours, it's back to being Mom and shoring them up (is that correct English? hmmmm....).
On the summer job front, or the job after college front:  Same kind of deal, but now is different from last year at this time. As parents we're telling our kids they need a "plan", there's no "hanging out" for the summer.  The reality of the economy is setting in for everyone and it's becoming more and more clear for our kids on college campuses.  They may live in a "bubble", but conversations are shifting.  They've been talking to their friends or reading Yahoo news, or their college "Daily" and they're also experiencing first hand what's going on "out here."  We've been talking to them all along, (but as is the case in general, it sometimes takes these other sources until it "sinks in") we've told them they need to get a summer job, but as resumes have gone out or they've contacted last summer's employers, the responses have been mixed, but mostly "Sorry", they're not adding summer positions or taking any interns, or not paying summer interns or...  So now we're saying they've got to come up with a plan on how they're going to spend their 2 1/2 - 3 months.  We can talk about what that "plan" might look like, but back to the topic at hand, this "rejection" experience is not such a bad thing.  Our kids have been a part of "everyone's a winner", we've spent a lot of time and energy over the years cushioning their blows.  Maybe it's that inner cheerleader thing, or maybe it's just that we're their Moms, but the fact is, we need to continue to support them, emotionally support them.  These are tough times.  They need our support and our bolstering them up.  We'll offer them advice, continue to help them, if asked, but after all, they are becoming more and more independent.  And they need to be.  But if their asking?  :)
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