Last night my youngest wanted to hang out with his friends at the local strip mall. “We want to eat at Wendy’s and walk around Target. Everyone is meeting at 5 and I HAVE to go.”
I reminded him that he’s been a bit lippy lately. He snuck his phone into his room, and the night before when he emptied his dinner plate into the trash he let the remnants of his dinner stay on the floor for two days refusing to clean them up. I had to pick up the croutons myself because I know how fast ants like to invade my home.
“Sorry, but your attitude hasn’t been good enough to hang out with your friends. Clean up the attitude and we can try next time,” I said.
We all know how this goes. When you parent like this suddenly you become “the worst parent ever” and before you know it you are trying to convince your very stubborn child why they don’t deserve to hang with their squad. They never see your point of course, and things can often spiral downward.
Sometimes you need to be a parent and sometimes a friend (klovestorun via Twenty20)
I know it’s the end of the year and my son who is navigating his way through puberty is going through so many changes that with each new sunrise he’s more confused about who he is. He’s been acting like a lightning bolt trapped in a bottle and I was parenting the crap out him. It would have been much easier to revert to the cool mom, to let him live it up with his friends for the evening, and hope that he would be grateful enough to me for letting him go that his attitude would improve.
But I know better.
A few years ago, when my oldest was going through the same thing, only on steroids. No amount of discipline I could dish out worked. He became angrier, more defiant, and he was taking it up with his friends and teachers at school.
I realized that what I was doing was not working for him when he said, “Everything I do is wrong. You are all over me about everything,” and he was right. Maybe I was over-parenting. Perhaps I was being too strict and he felt that I was squeezing the life out of him. “You punish me for everything and I feel like I have nothing else to lose.”
We Need to Be Friends With Our Kids, Too
I looked at my son sitting next to me in the car and decided to back down. I also decided he needed a friend at that exact moment and that friend was going to be me. I asked him what he needed. We had a good talk and I told him that he could always come to me with anything and we could talk it out.
That moment changed our relationship and it almost didn’t happen. I was so afraid of friend-zoning my teenagers I was pushing them away. I wanted to maintain my role as their parent. I was didn’t want to be their friend because I’d heard that when the poop hits the fan, you get taken advantage of.
Something I’ve learned while parenting, and friending my three children, is that there is a time and a place to be a parent. Generally we are in a leader role and we need to hang onto the reins even though we’d rather pass the torch to someone else, rip off our Spanx, and hide under a weighted blanket for the evening. But there have also been times in my kids’ lives when backing down from being a mom and choosing to be a friend instead has been a better decision.
How many times have you felt lost, needed a friend and reached out to someone, who instead of validating you, gave you a lecture or made you feel like your feelings were trivial or wrong. It’s a crappy feeling and only cements your insecurities and in the long run, you probably won’t go to that person any longer.
There is a time and a place to be the friend your kids need. My kids don’t need me to parent them when they get their heart broken. They need a friend. They don’t need me to parent them when they are struggling with a friendship, they need someone who is compassionate, supportive, and understanding.
I find myself weaving in and out of being my kids’ friend and being their parent. We all want to keep the door open to our kids, especially when they are teens. And we can do this by sliding into whatever role is appropriate at the time in order to build a strong foundation for a lasting relationship with them.
And honestly, that will look different for all of us–we know our kids better than anyone else–we know when to take it down a notch and take a break from being the disciplinarian because in that moment being a sounding board for our child will be more beneficial.
I don’t want my kids to think, “I could never talk to her about the stuff that’s was tearing me up because she would just punish me.” If I see my kids acting defiant, or struggling with something, and it seems like they need a friend more than a parent at that moment, I’m happy to oblige.
And that flexibility has truly been what has solidified my relationships with my teenagers.
This spring I’ve looked out the window on many occasions only to see the sun shining. I’ve really wanted to get out and enjoy the weather but things like being an adult and working come before soaking up Vitamin D or playing in my garden.
I look at the clock and push on determined to accomplish whatever I can, knowing that I’ll be leaving in a few hours to get my kids from school and they will probably beg me to stop for ice cream or french fries. Then, I’ll sit in the grass at my daughter’s lacrosse game and talk to other mothers who are also doing everything they can to keep their heads above water. And we will all leave feeling a little bit more validated and refreshed.
I’m very caught up in my teens’ lives right now. Yes, I’m busy. Yes, I’m tired. Yes, I look forward to down time because there isn’t much of it these days. Yes, there are many days when I long to have less to do. But damn, do I love these days. Even the hard ones when I feel like my parenting skills have left the building and being a decent mother to three teens is virtually impossible.
I’m already missing my kids. (@dmjs1994 via Twenty20)
My kids motivate me. They get me out and about. They’ve introduced me to people I wouldn’t have met if I hadn’t brought them into the world. They make me feel nostalgic when I see them get ready for a dance or go out to the movies with their friends on a Friday night. They hold me to a higher standard because I know they are watching. They aren’t afraid to call me out on my bullshit because I’ve always called them out on theirs.
And when they leave, I know I am going to feel a void on top of a void. I am not only going to miss my children and the fact that they were the number one priority in my daily life, I am going to miss who I was when being a parent was my biggest role.
Sure, I’ll continue to see my babies when I look a them—I’ll always feel like a mother. I’ll worry and think about them. But when they leave, I’ll be more of an extra in their life instead of a having such a strong supporting role. That is going to feel so foreign to me, and honestly, I can already anticipate how hard it’s going to be for me to arrive at a new place in my life and rediscover me.
When the kids leave, the hosting of sleepovers, the noise, the early morning tousled hair, the gathering of Sunday dinners, taking them out for fast food, and carting them around on the weekends, will go with them. What will I do with that space? Who will I be? Sure, I’ll figure it out but I’m positive I’ll long for my old life; the old me.
For almost two decades, our kids keep us running so fast we wonder when we are going to be able to stop for gas.
Then it all stops and while some parents want to throw a party to celebrate their empty nest, life-change is hard. It forces us to think differently, even if we’re ready for the change and know that ultimately we’ll thrive.
Our brains crave normalcy and for so long we’ve identified as our children’s parents whether we’ve worked outside the home or not. We get really good at juggling all the balls and suddenly most of them drop to the floor. Being a parent always has been, and always will be, the greatest honor of my life.
And when my kids are gone, I will miss them, I will miss the years of being knee-deep in parenting, and most of all, I’ll really miss who I was while I was their full-time, hands-on mom.
To all those with teens who struggle with mental health issues: I see you.
As my daughter’s freshman year in high school comes to a close, we scramble, nag, and beg her to get enough work finished and turned in to at least pass her classes. I never thought I’d be in this position.
I was a straight-A student, always obsessing over school work, preparing for my future, and now I’ve got my fingers crossed, hoping my daughter manages Ds. It isn’t that she’s struggling with the material, she’s perfectly capable and perfectly intelligent. It’s that she’s in the grips of a detrimental mix of anxiety, depression, and apathy.
One particularly troubling aspect of her anxiety is selective mutism, which means there are many situations in which she doesn’t speak. “How are you?” someone will ask, and she’ll just stare back. “Are you okay?” they’ll ask, and she just keeps staring.
Parents with teens who are struggling with mental health: I see you. (@rohane via Twenty20)
Our Daughter Has Mental health Issues
Her plans for her future consist of evaporating into the ether after graduation. In class, she’s usually withdrawn, refusing to work with anyone else, and has been known to sit there doing nothing during tests or assignments. She spends her days after school in the basement on her computer, either playing various games that involve designing fantasy creatures, or creating digital art. She supposedly has friends, but never does anything with them outside of school hours.
As her parents, we see a kid, whom we know has hidden talents, whom we want to believe in, but who isn’t developing all of the basic life skills and competencies that will lead her into a functioning adulthood. I used to dream of college for her, and now I’m just hoping she makes it through high school and doesn’t live in our basement for the rest of her life.
At this point, I would consider it a success if she’s on her own in a rundown apartment and working a minimum wage job by the time she’s 30. Of course I want more for her than that, but how does she get there from here?
She struggles with so many things–getting her school work completed and turned in, interacting with teachers, ordering food at restaurants, even going on a short weekend trip will invariably include some sort of breakdown either as we’re trying to convince her to get out of the house, or when we’re miles away from home and she’s just suddenly unable to cope.
And it’s all we can do to convince her to shower more than once a week and actually use soap and to change her clothes. We even had her get her driver’s permit so she could work towards independence, but had to drop out of drivers ed because she just couldn’t function in the class and the instructor deemed her unsafe to put behind the wheel.
Time and time again, we throw our hands up in the air, feeling like there’s no hope, and that we’ve already tried everything. She’s been through four therapists in five years, and half a dozen different medications. We’ve tried being strict, being lenient, bending over backwards offering to listen, to do anything-please-just-say-what-it-is-you-need-from-us!
We’ve worked with the school to get a 504 plan in place. We’ve redesigned her bedroom into a sensory sanctuary with weighted blanket, tent bed, and even a beloved ball python. We go back and forth wondering if we’re doing too much and enabling, or doing too little and letting her fall deeper.
I often tell people that if you’re going to have kids, have more than one, that way you’ll see that it’s not you. Our 12-year-old son will start jr high in the fall, participates in taekwondo, is working toward his black belt, and hangs out with friends. He even took it upon himself to apply to the school’s AVID program so he can prepare to go to college. Our 8-year-old daughter is precocious, has been skipped a grade, and is already far more independent and socially capable than her much older sister.
We see glimmers of inner world in our teenage daughter. We see her produce amazing art and amazing stories with obsession and passion, but she rarely shares it with anyone. She just hides–in the basement, inside an unwashed hoodie, behind greasy hair.
It is sad, maddening, frustrating, tiresome, endless. We cling to any small improvement or victory, all the while seeing the shadows of what more she has to overcome in the periphery rushing down like an avalanche. And it’s all we can do right now to keep trying. On to the next medication, on to the next teacher meeting, on to the next therapy strategy, and on and on.
I hold an image in my head that she is a caterpillar in a chrysalis, hiding behind some hard-featured exterior, melting, but morphing, and one day–maybe, just maybe–she’ll emerge and spread her wings.
We want parents to understand that this is a wonderful phase of development. There are going to be some puddles, but it is your unconditional love of your child that is their platform to help launch them into adulthood.
The parent of a teen’s job is to shift from controlling to sideline coaching. So, a lot of the parent’s work is about loosening that control.
Here are ways to have a healthy relationship with your teen. (@SmitBruins via Twenty20)
Six Ways to Get Along With Your Teen
Some ways you can have a healthy relationship with your teen is to:
1. Remember That You Were A Teen Once Too
Asking yourself open-ended questions that create empathy can help you to have a healthy relationship with your teen. For example, if a parent is struggling with their 15-year-old son, Dr. Solomon would ask, “What was going on for you at age 15?”
This allows you to remember how it feels to be a teenager and reminds you about some of the struggles they are going through.
2. Remember That Adolescences Is About Gaining Independence
When your child is being stubborn it can feel as if it is an afront to your authority but, it may be their attempt at gaining independence which is a normal phase of teen development.
3. Remember That Teens Rebel Against Us Because They Love Us
When your child rebels against your rules it might feel as if they don’t care about you or your expectations.
“Teens are pushing us away because they need to become more independent and that is hard as heck because of how much they love us,” says Dr. Ginsburg.
“I think teens feel safest experimenting with the people they know are not going to go anywhere,” says Dr. Ginsburg. He goes on to say, “It’s almost a compliment. You’ve got to reframe this. If our kids experimented this way in other places of their life it might not be safe for them. But with you it’s safe.”
4. Remember Your Child’s Good Characteristics
When you are feeling upset with how your teen is acting or treating you try toremind yourself about all their good characteristics.
Dr. Ginsburg says, “Even during those moments of tension say to yourself, ‘there is so much that is good about my child.’” He goes on to say, “By remembering the good characteristics this will allow you to go back to the place that you need to be which is strategic. Taking a deep breath, creating a space, approaching this from a place of love instead of hostility or anger.”
5. Move To A “Yes” Space
Dr. Solomon explained that the moment a parent feels anger they need to pay attention because they have moved from a “yes” space to a “no” space.
A “yes” space is when you are on the same team as your teen and a “no” space is when you are in fight or flight mode, leading you to try to control the situation.
“If a kid is doing something that they know is going to get under their parent’s skin, a parent should think, ‘My kid loves me, I love my kid, we are happier when we are connected,’” says Dr. Solomon.
After a parent recognizes they feel angry, it’s important to pause before reacting. If necessary, envision a stop sign in front of you or walk away. This step is the most difficult one because the moment can feel like it demands a response right now.
6. How To Have A Healthy Relationship With Your Teen
When you experience conflict with your teen, like any relationship, try to resolve it together by discussing it. Enlist the idea that “we” have the same goal. “Teens are more inclined to work with us when they also feel like we are working with them,” says Dr. Naumburg.
Dr. Solomon stressed the importance of not telling your teen that they are doing something wrong. She said, “When our language has a hint of ‘you are doing it the wrong way’ that is an invitation to a power struggle.” She goes on to say, “Parents need to have compassion and help their kid make healthy choices from a place of love and healthy boundaries verses fear and control.”
Cheryl Maguire holds a Master of Counseling Psychology degree. She married and is the mother of twins and a daughter. Her writing has been published in The New York Times, Parents Magazine, Upworthy, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings and Twins Magazine. You can find her at Twitter @CherylMaguire05
About 14 years ago, I sat in a church service with my husband and tiny daughter.
My mind settled on the family in front of us. Two parents and three teenagers. I have thought about this family so many times over the years and even more often recently. It was the early service. The teenagers were awake but looked rumpled. Two boys and a girl. And I looked at them with envy.
That woman, the mother, she had done it. She survived (it appeared) 17 years of raising children at least. I had just barely begun. And she got three teenagers at church sitting with their parents on time. One of them had their head on her shoulder! She did something right. They looked like the perfect family. How did she do it?
Raising teens is hard and we should give each other hugs. (@mindijob via Twenty20)
What I Never Knew About the Teen Years
Now I am moving into that stage. I have two teenagers and an eight year old.
Let me tell you something. I had no idea about the teen years. None. This is some PhD level crap to deal with and I have a 4th grade level of preparation. I am stunned and overwhelmed by the twists and turns of parenting teenagers. This is hard work. DIFFICULT. Mental Jedi level parenting. Nearly all of the stereotypes have really become true to one extent or another. All of that was surely not going to happen in this family. Pfffft.
They are moody. The moods. Wow. It feels like hugging some cacti over here. Lately I feel the need to announce that I might hug them. It goes like this. Hey, it will be ok. I’m going to move toward you now. I’m going to hug you. It’s happening. I’m your mother and since I birthed you I feel you owe me this much. Feel free to stand there woodenly and hold your breath until it’s over. But make no mistake. I am going to hug you…3,2,1.
It’s hard not to take things personally when they are so crabby. It’s a combination of their random malaise and my lack of sympathy that causes the rift. I mean, sometimes their day-to-day lives are pretty cushy.
Pick ME up in sub zero temps in a warm car within 34 seconds of my activity ending. Hand me a cocoa. Heaven. Force ME to go to bed at a reasonable hour in fresh sheets in a clean room. Heaven. Wash my clothes. Invite my friends over. Make me breakfast. Make my friends breakfast. Leave me alone when I’m on a Netflix binge. Give me cash from time to time. Ask me how my day was and soothe me when it wasn’t a good one. Heaven, heaven, heaven. And yet, I sometimes still get the large moods all up in my face.
They are self-focused. They stand at the epicenter of their very own universe. If I had a dollar for every time “It’s not all about YOU” was uttered in this house (by us parents) I’d have enough to actually visit the epicenter of the universe and fly first class. The narcissism works against them. I try to point out that literally nobody else notices their hair/skin/scowl/braces/pants/test grade/shoes/mistake/social gaffe because all THOSE people are self-obsessed too. They don’t believe me.
They do stupid things. Their friends do stupid things. They all are doing stupid things together. (I’ll choose not to elaborate…wherever your mind is running off to right now-it likely happening with my kids, your kids and/or the kids they know or it will or it already has). And they think nobody will know about some of these bad choices and parents will never find out which is just so painfully naive.
Newsflash: Everyone will know (faster and wider spread with the assistance of social media) and all parents find out everything eventually. Whether we find out within minutes of the event or on our deathbed…we find out. We parents are just one generation older who already did all the stupid things. Hellooooo. We invented and perfected stupid just like our parents did before us. Duh.
They think I am yelling. If I ask them something or tell them something. Example: Could you please bring these dirty clothes to the basement so I can wash them? This is met with large sighs, hunchback body language, eye rolls, a chorus of “I KNOW!!!!” and this…”You don’t have to yell at me!” Um-what? I wasn’t yelling. When I yell, you will know. I could blow the roof off with the yelling. Do not test me. You know not what I am capable of with yelling.
They act like typical teenagers. They play their music. Loudly. Early in the morning. They watch tv. Some of it is absolute crap. They know things about the Kardashians. Makes me want to cry. My son recently answered a geography bee test question correctly. He learned the answer by watching 324 episodes of Modern Family. I’m so proud.
They leave water bottles everywhere. They argue with me for sport. They leave food wrappers on the floor of their rooms. They fling their shoes in every corner-and sometimes they reek. They embarrass me sometimes. I embarrass them sometimes. We are in a cycle of mutual inadvertent embarrassment. They get mad when I take their photo (see above).
They eat all day. A meal schedule means nothing to them. A sleep schedule means nothing to them. I’m awake when they are asleep. They are awake when I am asleep. They change their minds on a whim. Their phones are an appendage. They move chargers around the house and then lie about not moving them.
They wear earbuds around and then act surprised when they can’t hear us. They glom onto a ‘catch phrase’ and can’t stop. If my son doesn’t stop saying the word ‘savage’ soon…I’m going to attack him ferociously.
Their friends are everything. This I remember well. It’s hard to shine a light on the fact that some of these friendships will be lifelong. They might have a friend now that would walk through fire for them. They will see them through good and bad and they will have their back and it will be unfathomable how life could continue without one another.
Other friendships are all drama and destructive and exhausting and an avalanche of negative bull$h*t and when they finally figure it out and walk away, it will be like removing an anvil from their neck. And sometimes as a teenager, you can’t figure out which friend fits into which category and it might take years to gather enough evidence to sort it out.
They think I “just don’t understand.” And I don’t. I don’t understand all of their experience and I really wouldn’t want to. I remember the teen years but it this ain’t your mother’s teen years. I think it is worse.
My 15 year old often puts in 16 hour days. She isn’t running a Fortune 500 Company…just going to high school. On December 15th she was at school by 7:30am. She had something before school during ‘zero hour’. She had 6 classes (complete with tests/lecture/notes/presentations) and then went straight to dance team prep for a jazz meet. She danced her time slot at 7:10.
Then she ran down the hall, changed into her orchestra dress and jumped into her spot in the concert orchestra to play the violin at 7:43. (We are now at 12+ hours spent in that building) Then she ran back and changed back into her warm ups to cheer on her team in their dances and be present for awards. Then she hauled 50 pounds of cookie dough (music fundraiser), dance team bag, costumes, school backpack, etc. into the car to head home.
Home at 10pm. Then she ripped out her bun form and hairnet and peeled off her false eyelashes at the kitchen table and ate something and finally sat down to start START on a few hours of homework.
I’ll tell you, the modern teenager has full days but sometimes I wonder how much living they are doing. They are on some sort of high speed treadmill and it’s nearly impossible to step off of it. The intensity level of school, activities, friends is relentless. When they say “I don’t have time” they actually mean it. They run out of hours in their day-often. Home is the last bastion of relaxation; where people love you but nag you about picking up your wet towel.
Needless to say, I have had to adjust my expectations. A lot. It is not my carefree adolescence of the 80’s. They can’t just complete their homework on the bus or skip it all together (like I did). They don’t have 45 minutes daily to devote to outfit selection and hair prep (like I did). They can’t bomb 3 tests and make up the points with cute extra credit or daily work (like I did).
The pressure they feel is product heavy and process light. Achieve, achieve, achieve. There are posters at our local high school boasting that it has been ranked “One of the most challenging high schools in America.” Maybe that inspires? It only depresses me and I don’t even have to go to school there.
Teenagers are under a lot of stress. I had stress in high school but I wasn’t bombarded by a competitive results- focused message from my parents, my friends, my extra curricular activities, my school district, my phone. It has somehow become my job to be the counterweight to ALL OF THAT and foster a “do enough” approach.
I never thought that would be my role. I never thought I would want them to achieve less and work on cultivating more joy. I thought I would be cracking the whip. But the world is already set on whipping them. They need encouragement. They need a freaking break.
And this stage isn’t all bad. They are fun. So much fun. And funny. Oh my God…funny! I enjoy their stories and they read better than any screenplay or novel. I can’t even tell the stories here or they’ll never speak to me again. (I asked) I should get a Finsta. I can talk to them now about the big things and be straightforward and they get it.
In some ways, I can be more myself than I could when they were little. Occasionally they do their own laundry and cook their own food. I love watching them learn. Sometimes minor miracles happen and they load the dishwasher or help a neighbor or play with their little brother or make a positive but tough choice without input or without a death threat from me. And sometimes they show glimmers of the adults they will soon become and it gives me great hope and energizes me for the day.
I think about that family in church. Maybe one of the kids had to be dragged out of bed to make it on time. Maybe one had been grounded for a week and slept in the clothes they were wearing. Maybe one was there of his own free will but was about to pick an epic fight on the ride home. Maybe all three of them had headphones in the entire ride to and from. Maybe that mother was just sitting there for one quiet hour like I do now and think…
Jen Fortner lives in Minnesota with her husband, three children and the best dog on earth. She has a MSW degree that never gets used other than to diagnose family members at holiday gatherings. She has a blog at mymildlifecrisis.com where she tells stories about her family that they never read.
Every college rejection letter is essentially the same:
We appreciate your interest in ________ University. We received a record number of applications this year and every one of them was thoroughly reviewed by our admissions staff. Unfortunately, we cannot offer you admission into the first-year class of 2023.
Please do not be discouraged, your academic achievements are impressive, and we wish you the best of luck in all of your future endeavors.
If the first word is not Congratulations! you can skim the rest because it is not good news. This past spring, I got a lot of these not-good-news letters. Seven to be exact: five rejections and two waitlists.
Here’s what I learned during the college rejection process. (@nopponpat via Twenty20)
In August, when I started the college application process, I felt that ten schools was way too many. My biggest concern was how I was going to decide between all of those colleges. Fast forward to March and the rejections were flooding in, with each new not-good-news letter my panic grew. I had my heart set on my favorite school, I had thought about what classes I would take my first semester there and I had pictured myself walking the campus as a student and that now felt endangered. Eventually, it was taken away altogether.
It hurts to get rejected from a school.
No matter how low on your list of potential schools, it feels like a slap in the face to receive a letter that seems to scream, “You are not good enough!” Naturally, I speculated why I was not accepted, I complained, and I cried. Boy, did I cry when I got waitlisted from my first-choice school. Every rejection, quite frankly, sucks, but my college application process taught me several very valuable lessons.
Lessons From College Rejection Letters
1. You do not always get what you want.
This may come across as harsh, but it is very true. I worked hard throughout my high school career and jumped through all of the hoops that make up the college application process. I thought I had done everything I needed to in order to go to the school I absolutely wanted to attend.
And, as I said before, I did not get what I wanted. And that frustrating experience made me realize that sometimes what we want right now is not always what we need in the long run. The hard piece of this lesson is that it only makes sense in hindsight. Only after going through an experience can you reflect and realize how that benefited you more than the other outcome would have. I choose to trust the process and know that at some point I will look back and recognize that what came to be was the best possible outcome for me, I just could not see it from the original vantage point.
2. Positivity feels better.
This is a lesson I have learned countless times and will need to be reminded of my whole life because I naturally tend towards being a pessimist. Immediately after I got waitlisted at my top choice school and realized that I would probably end up attending a school that had originally been at the bottom of my list. I was very bitter. I cried when I talked about it, I did not want to accept my reality, and I would not even pretend to be happy to be going to a school that is truly a wonderful university that I am privileged to be attending.
But, after a few weeks, something amazing happened. I started acknowledging that this college would be my future school. I opened myself up to my new reality and I realized that I was actually excited. Now, several months removed from the college rejection letters of the spring, I am thrilled to be attending what was originally my last choice college. I may have had to go through the grieving process first, as dramatic as that sounds, but I am in a good place with a positive outlook. Because life feels a lot better with a positive attitude.
3. It is absolutely useless to compare yourself to others.
I am not going to lie, I still get disgruntled when I see on social media that someone I know is going to one of the schools I was rejected from. I cannot help but wonder what they have going for them that I do not. What did they do differently? Are they really that much smarter than me? I thought my essay was great, what did they write?
But this is an exercise in futility, so I have to work to steer clear of that line of thought because it only causes me hurt and has no purpose. Every person is different and there are countless factors that could potentially explain our differing outcomes. They got in and I did not, I will never know why and I just have to accept that. Dwelling on that does no good at all.
This is advice that almost every single adult in my life has given me, but it does hold truth. I could get an undergraduate degree from anywhere and very few employers will really care what school it came from. Obviously, Ivy League schools carry more clout behind their name, but, essentially, a degree is a degree and I can get a quality education from any school in the country as long as I am willing to put in the work.
A school can have the most amazing resources and faculty ever and if I do not put any effort into my school work none of that matters because my education is driven by me. I will benefit from a college education because I am motivated to study and step outside of my comfort zone and learn, none of that comes from the university I attend, all of that is determined by me and my effort.
5. Things change.
When you’re applying to college it can be really easy to slip into the idea that you need to have everything figured out right now, you need to know the answers to all of the big questions. What school you are going to seems like it will directly control what career you get and how successful you will be, so you have to know what you are doing right now.
But things change.
I could change my major, I could transfer schools, I could decide college is not for me and drop out, I could get an internship that helps me discover a new passion, I could get a job lined up before I even graduate. The beauty of college, and life, is that there are so many opportunities available that I cannot confine myself to a rigid template of what I think my life should look like because that would mean I might miss out on an amazing opportunity I did not see coming.
The college application process is just the beginning of a massive opportunity for learning and growing as a person. I have not even started my college career yet and I have already learned so much from this experience, even if it did not turn out the way I had expected it to.
Emma Wilcox is a recent graduate of Hudson High School and will be attending Miami University in the fall as a Women’s Studies and Creative Writing major. She has spent the last fifteen years of her life doing competitive gymnastics, but recently retired and is eager to embrace the college experience.
I’m going to tell you a tiny secret about college that may be unpopular with whoever is footing your tuition bill. College learning may end up to be 15% in the classroom and 85% everything else. Fifteen percent is going to class (possibly in pajamas), writing the papers, procrastinating on group projects, giving speeches and cramming for tests with only a Red Bull for company. The 85% is what is truly preparing you for the real world.
Living with strangers. Working with people who are not like you and use their time and talents differently. Setting a schedule. Sticking to a budget. Making yourself exercise when you don’t feel like it. Putting yourself out there and meeting people, building and maintaining relationships. Pushing through frustration. Resisting wearing your pajamas around the clock.
Dear Freshman, college is made up of lots of “maybes” along the way. (@mari30_9 via Twenty20)
How Students Really Learn in College
Along the way someone in your sphere of influence will likely say to you, “You’re just going through a phase.” That sentence angered me to my core at 18 and still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Because…
Maybe you’ll go vegan. Maybe you’ll love it. Maybe it will make you wildly unpopular at Thanksgiving because your uncle owns a turkey farm.
Maybe you will play IM Volleyball and you have never been considered athletic in your life. Maybe you will become passionately political and attend a protest. Maybe you will change your mind about the issue the very next year. Maybe you will lean far left or far right or far away from your parents’ point of view. Maybe it will feel good.
Maybe you will redefine what is considered a ‘bold’ act of courage for you. Maybe it’s sitting at a different lunch table in the dining hall. Maybe it’s skydiving. Maybe it’s studying harder than ever before. Maybe it’s staying up way too late at a party and getting a B- the next day for the very first time. Maybe it’s shaving your head and not shaving your legs. Maybe it’s telling your BELOVED mother that you are indeed NOT coming home for the weekend.
We adults can get quite high and mighty about what constitutes a phase and about how long one should properly last.
We adults can be a wee bit condescending as kids explore life’s rich pageant. But here is another little secret. We have no clue what we are doing either.
Ask your parents if they ever tried something and then quit. A gym, a job, a relationship. Ask your Dad if he ever drove a red Mustang convertible but then decided to sell it to pay for an engagement ring. (my husband) Ask your Mom if she ever plucked the CRAP out of her eyebrows at one time and then spent 18 months growing them back out. (me)
Ask your neighbor if he used to be a corporate bigwig but traded in that life to become an educator. Ask Grandma if she was engaged before she met Grandpa. Ask your Aunt if she used to be on a low fat diet but switched to low carb and then was keto but now is paleo. Ask her if it’s working. Ask your older brother why he transferred schools after two years and if it was a good choice in the end.
We are ALL in the never ending phase of growing up. And you are on the earlier end of the journey. Some things will stick and others were just experimental.
We adults KNOW this but still nag nonetheless. And if the nagging persists, I have a suggestion. Put your phone in airplane mode on that campus and just get out there and live college, kid. And if anyone says dismissively that you are “just in a phase”. No need to get defensive. No need to get a retaliatory forehead tattoo. (please)
Jen Fortner lives in Minnesota with her husband, three children and the best dog on earth. She has a MSW degree that never gets used other than to diagnose family members at holiday gatherings. She has a blog at mymildlifecrisis.com where she tells stories about her family that they never read.
This fall, Boston Public Schools will be offering free menstrual supplies to every school in the district that teaches 6th through 12th graders. The BPS pilot program is being launched in an attempt to support girls who get their periods in school and cannot afford supplies.
In a survey by Always,a feminine hygiene brand, found that one in five girls have either left school early or missed school entirely for lack of access to period products. Lacking access to a pad or a tampon, girls who have their periods chose either to go home or to stay home. That choice has far reaching consequences for the individual and for society, leading to missed days of school, poor grades and a generally poorer education.
All girls need access to period products (@JosiEpic via Twenty20)
With all the pressures that face our adolescents, the issue of period poverty should not become an additional stressor. We often think about this as an international issue, but the United States is not immune to period poverty and fortunately the solution is relatively straightforward.
We laud the Boston Public Schools for taking steps to resolve this issue and for their focus on keeping pubescent and post-pubescent girls in school. Let’s take just one hurdle out of the way, and help female students make the most of their education.
Thank you to Boston Public Schools for leading the way.
From the founders of the #1 site for parents of teens and young adults comes an essential guide for building strong relationships with your teens and preparing them to successfully launch into adulthood.
Grown and Flown is a one-stop resource for parenting teenagers, leading up to—and through—high school and those first years of independence. It covers everything from the monumental (how to let your kids go) to the mundane (how to shop for a dorm room). Organized by topic—such as academics, anxiety and mental health, college life—it features a combination of stories, advice from professionals, and practical sidebars.
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Lisa Heffernan and Mary Dell Harrington
I am recommending this book to every parent I know and keeping a copy close at hand to answer parenting questions of my own.” —Lisa Damour, PhD, author of the New York Times bestsellers Under Pressure and Untangled
“There is no resource I recommend more often than Grown & Flown. This book is an invaluable guide for parents who want to raise independent, competent, and resilient kids who know they are loved.” —Jessica Lahey, author of the New York Times bestseller The Gift of Failure
College move-in day is fast approaching. The best way to prepare for move-in day is to be prepared. Of course every school has their own rules and traditions surrounding move-in day. Some schools supply you with an army of upperclassmen to help you schlep. You need to look at your particular school’s rules regarding move-in timing, parking, and what your student needs for their own dorm room.
Having said that, realizing that there is a large area of overlap, we asked thousands of experienced parents what, in retrospect, was the one essential item they felt they needed for this intense and emotional day.
Note: We receive small amounts of compensation from purchases made through the links in this post.
Top 12 Things to Bring to College Move-In Day
1) Ikea Storage Bags – these bags are THE secret to move-in success. Lightweight, durable and easy to stack in the car, these bags can be used for under bed storage, can function as a laundry bag, or can be folded and ready to be packed up when you move out your kid next spring.
2) Four Wheel Folding Platform Cartor a dolly were mentioned repeatedly-they’re enormously helpful for getting your stuff where it needs to go. This will make college move-in day go so much smoother!
3) Surge Protector – You can never have enough power in a dorm room and many do not allow extension cords. This surge protector has a 6 foot cord, 12 outlets and 2 USB ports.
4) Box Fan – August is a very hot month and many dorms are not air-conditioned. Bring fans and set them up first to keep all of you a little cooler during the move-in.
5) A Tool Set that includes a screwdriver, rubber mallet, tape measure, a hammer, scissors and duct tape. Leave this behind for your student who will use it moving in and out of dorms and apartments over the next four years.
6) First Aid Kit– it doesn’t have to be fancy but someone is going to need a band-aid or an over the counter analgesic like Advil/Tylenol.
7) Door Stopper-as soon as you get to your room, prop the door open and you will make your life much easier. This one comes with a holder than can be attached with velcro to the back of the door so the door stop won’t get lost under a pile of dirty clothes (theoretically.)
8) Change of clothing – You will invariably get hot and sweaty so it might be nice to take a backpack with a change of clothing for everyone or at least a fresh t-shirt. Water bottles and snacks will come in handy, too. We are big fans of Hydro Flask water bottles which will keep cold drinks chilly for 24 hours… to get you through the long day of moving.
9) Command Strips for “hanging” things on walls-they peel off easily without ruining the walls and, depending on the school or the type of walls, you may not be able to/be allowed to make holes in the walls.
10) Cleaning supplies – Fill a bucket with cleaning supplies such as Clorox wipes, trash bags and shelf liners because you may want to wipe everything down and you’ll also need a few rolls of paper towels. Others suggested a plunger and a room deodorizer for good measure.
11) Toilet paper – A roll of toilet paper-you might not need it but it could be really awkward to get caught without.
12) Paper and pen/Sharpie-you will probably have some of this stuff with you for your student but keep a pen handy because you may need to make notes or fill out forms. A Sharpie can come in handy.
You will forget something. Everyone forgets something.Whatever you’ve forgotten, don’t panic because luckily we live in a time when you can get almost anything online, and you can get it shipped to your student.
Finally….By far the most popular answer aside those listed above and tissues, alcohol and tranquilizers was to bring your smile, your sense of humor, and your patience. Bring an overabundance of patience because you’ll need it. And, follow your student’s lead-it’s not your room, it’s theirs.
You are there to help but not to dictate. College move-in day is a long day. It’s a hot day, It’s a difficult day but it’s also a tremendously exciting day. Heed the wisdom of the crowd and bring your smile and your ability to let go and it might just be a day you all remember fondly.
When the move-in is complete-it’s time to walk away. However cranky everyone got during the move, when you leave your child, tell them you love them, tell them you’re proud of them and assure them that you will be fine and so will they. And, then for goodness sake, go home!!