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".


Ann Pietrangelo said...

You are invited to participate in an upcoming Generation Y Blog Carnival.

Carnival Information:

Hope to hear from you!

Unknown said...

Thank you for the invitation, now I just have to figure out how to participate. :)
Pardon my "technologically challenged" self!

Unknown said...

hey Bep - this is good stuff - we're heading into the college phase - and it looks like despite our 529 accounts getting whacked we'll be OK because our oldest isn't really a student - very nice guy and athletic etc. but couldn't care less about the classroom - the local community college is still very affordable..

Unknown said...

This is great. I finally had a chance to sit down and read it. Thanks for a wonderful holiday weekend!


Anonymous said...

Backatchya Julia! Very fun weekend. Looking forward to your visit to Maine!

Anonymous said...

Hi Bep. I ain't buying it! I have to do enough with these damn social networks at work. No way am I gonna spend my hours off digitally. Besides, being a guy, why would I want to chat digitally? I don't chat when I'm there in person.
Bring back the analog phone, I'm with the grandparents on that one... John who doesn't use a cell phone.

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