Asked and Answered:

Managing the Transition to College

Many of the problems parents and students have with the college transition come from confusion about whose problems they really are. Get clear on ownership of both rights and responsibilities. Stepping in and taking over problems that are theirs, not ours, shields them from responsibility for living their own lives  and presents us with dilemmas we can’t and shouldn’t solve for them.  Ask yourself these questions:

. Are  you responsible for their grades, conduct, or life choices?

. Do you have a right to know how they’re doing academically?

. What can you do to make their college adjustment easier?

Q. Our freshman daughter is flunking two courses, living off-campus, and generally running wild. She won’t listen to our advice, ignores our letters and phone calls, and just pierced her nose! What can we do?

A .Unless you’ve tied your financial aid to her grade point average, her academic performance is between her and her college. You might insist that she move into a dorm or find a supervised living situation until her grades improve and suggest that she take fewer or less demanding courses until she’s adjusted to college life. And ask her to take out her nose ring for Thanksgiving at Grandmother’s.

Q. My son has been on academic probation since the first semester and will have to go to summer school to stay in college next year. Why didn’t we find this out earlier when we could have helped him? And who should pay for his make-up courses?

 A.In high school you had to sign his report card, but the Family Education and Privacy Act mandates that students, not parents, get their transcripts, regardless of who’s paying the bill. It’s his responsibility to pay for summer school, not yours, even if he has to take a semester off and get a job to accomplish this.

Q. Our daughter is so homesick she can’t eat, sleep or study. Should we suggest that she withdraw from college, come home and commute to a school closer to home?

 A.Most freshmen go through a siege of homesickness, and in most cases it’s not severe enough to take such drastic measures. Many kids don’t feel like college is “home” until after Christmas vacation. Meanwhile, stay in touch through letters, calls and e-mails. Familiarize yourself with the counseling facilities at her school and suggest that she take advantage of them.

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Personal Coaching for Anxious Parents

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The Stranger in the Bedroom

When they went off to college, you turned their rooms into your  home office, gym, or (wo)man cave. Now they’re back, maybe just for a pit stop on the way to real life, but they’re not the same kids who left and you’re all aware that even though the rules and roles have changed, it’s not clear what the new ones are – yours or theirs.  And while it’s tempting just to stick with the old ways of doing, being and behaving, it’s not likely to be very good strategy in the long run, even if you can enforce it.

Coping with grown kids returning home is not only a relatively new challenge, it’s a more prevalent one than ever, according to the most recent demographics. It’s true not only in the U.S., but in most European countries as well; more young adults live with their parents than with each other or their romantic partners.  While it may be a matter of economics for some , for many it’s also an indication of the desire of both generations for each other’s company, attention and support, emotional as well as financial.  What’s necessary for it to work is parents’ realization that  their home-agains aren’t interested in the old status quo; they’re not just seeking  the comforts of being known and accepted for who they were but also acknowledgement of who they’ve become since they went away.  They’re probably not fully financially self–supporting, but they’re still independent  adults with the right to live their own lives. They want your understanding but not your advice; your interest but not your inquisitiveness; your acceptance of their choices and decisions,  even if  they’re not the same ones you’d make if you were in their place

And that’s my advice to postparents  – remember that even if they’re in your place, you’re not in theirs, at least not given their life stage, their experiences, and all their recent history.  They’ve grown up in a very different world than yours, and learned life lessons that have changed them in ways you may not notice. They face a very different world than you did at their age, and n even more different future.  So do more listening than talking. Ask, don’t tell. And make sure that before they leave again, you get to know the people they’ve become. It’s a  good start to the rest of your relationship with them.

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