Photo from Unsplash by Marco Lastella
If you stop to think about it, adolescence is THE period of life MOST filled w/ transitions. Just consider how different your eighteen-year-old is from his twelve-year-old self! Going to college is one of the BIGGEST CHANGES, the most dramatic transitions one makes in life.
Some of us LOVE change, embrace it, feel energized, maybe even stir things up just for fun. Others of us resist it, strenuously avoid it, or take quite a while to prepare for and to recover from transitions. Completing high school is a great time to help teens see where they fall on that continuum AND what they need to do change well…in preparation for college and for his life beyond college.
And, of course, this is transition for parents and sibs too…what do YOU need?
Once again, family (dinner?) conversations can be an excellent opportunity to think through not only your soon-to-be-college kid’s transition but the transitions for other family members too. We often forget that the departure of one sib for college often has impact for the remaining sibs too… to say nothing of mom and dad!
With the goal in mind of helping your grad consider how he “does change”, these might be some conversation guidelines (I recommend that all members contribute their input to the convo):
Think of a time of change in your life (move to a new city, change schools, divorce, death in family, change of friends, new house)
- Complete the sentence: When there is major change, I usually react by…?
- How long did that adjustment period last?
- What/who helped you in the process?
- What strategies did you use to help? (napping, joining club, exercising, crying)
- If we were to create a recipe for BAD transition, what might be included? (Be angry; resist with all energy, sulk, make life miserable for others, believe you cannot adjust, become ill, tell new friends how they do not measure up, withdraw and don’t tell anyone you’re having a hard time)
- As a family, make a list of all the changes coming during the next few years. Which ones will be easy/fun (letter of acceptance)? Which will be difficult (packing to leave)? Note: one thing can be good or bad, depending on family member.
- Talk about ways in which family members can support each other, ask for support. Maybe actually ask, “What has someone in this family done for you to encourage you in tough times?”
That unexpected feeling: GRIEF
When we think of grief, we usually associate it with something sad or bad like losing a job, the death of a pet or crashing a new car. So, grief can surprise us on happy occasions like a kid heading off to a great college experience. I’ll never forget a phone from my pal whose daughter had recently started her freshman year of college. As I answered the call, a teary voice said, “Hi…it’s me. I just went to the grocery store (sniffle, sniffle). I didn’t buy any applesauce…. (pause) … because my applesauce eater for eighteen years is (voice broke completely) gone…..” and my friend began to cry. As much as it may be useful for us to help our grads consider what they may need and positive ways to get it, we too need to give some thought to what we need and what to do if we go off track a bit.
At the risk of stating the obvious, transitions simply take time. Our grad can’t feel socially connected at his new place until he has time to meet kids, spend some time with them, sort through them to find a few he’d like to “audition,” etc. Time is our friend…along with some thought on “what to do in the meantime.” With myself and with my kids, to ease my waiting, I like to pose the question
What will be benchmarks of progress, signs that things moving a good direction?
Recently my two-year-old granddaughter started preschool. She wasn’t potty-trained; she didn’t know how to put her backpack on; she had only been drinking from a sippee cup (the kind with a spout which aren’t allowed at her school); no one had ever bitten her before so she didn’t know how to respond; she’d never been asked to wait in a line; she was accustomed to reaching over to the plate next to hers and eating what she wanted. You’re a parent. You KNOW how much she had to learn. I am happy to report that just four months into “school”, she happily is able to do all those things correctly. Why? Because she is super brilliant? Nope, because learning and growing and figuring things out is what kids do; it’s what people do.
It’s what your kid will do too because GROWTH is what he’s all about!
You (and he) may count on it!