Words like “stress,” hassle,” “craziness” are frequently used when referring to college application season. But why not “joy”? Why can’t this be a good experience, with excitement, optimism and good memories? We believe that there is joy to be found in the college application process, and here are some ways to find it.
Make College Visits Fun
Rather than “college visit”, think “mini vacation.” Sure, your mini vacation may include a couple hours of sitting through an information session and sore feet from walking around a college campus, but once that part is over, explore the town. Do something touristy. Stay at a nice B&B or find a fun play to stop on the way home. Get a nice dinner close by, grab ice cream, go shopping. There is an app called Road Trippers that I like to use when planning college visits because you can find hotels, attractions, etc in the area or along the route. If there are other children in your family, can you leave them at home with a family member or friend? It would be really special to enjoy these “mini vacations” with only the one college-bound child. You will thank yourself later!
Learn and Ask Questions
Teenagers are typically reserved and reluctant to share information with their parents; it’s normal. But one of the common reasons I hear from them about why they do so is, “my parents criticize me.” Of course, teenagers need direction and criticism and even repercussions when they make mistakes, that’s tough love (and they make a lot of mistakes!) But, take some time to ask questions and listen to the responses while reserving judgment. Occasionally, you don’t even need to respond, except to be positive and encouraging. Your teenager is a completely different person than they used to be when they were younger and told you everything. Use the college process to learn about who they are now and who they want to become.
“She’s sitting on my lap again!” “He sat next to me on the couch and let me put my arm around him.” “I cuddled her in her bed last night.” These are actual words from shocked parents I’ve spoken to over the years. There’s this weird thing that can happen around the college process where teens (literally stuck between childhood and adulthood) aren’t sure how to behave, especially when nervous and scared. Their whole future rides in the balance (so they think) and YOU (even though they hate you 🙂 ) love them unconditionally and they do know that. So, enjoy the times they cuddle, or sit next to you. Watch for the signs or you might miss them. They come and go in the blink of an eye. But you will have deja vous from when they were little and warning… you may shed a tear.
Follow Their Lead
One of the simplest ways to find more joy in the college process for parents is to take a step back. Remember that it’s their process; they are the one who will be attending college, not you. Offer advice and support, but let them take the lead. If you have serious concerns about their ability to keep on top of things, it might make sense to bring in a college counselor. When parents have to be the “nagger” and the “teacher” and the “tutor” it can be extremely difficult and taxing on the relationship between teen and parent. So, take a deep breath and let them take the lead on their future.