It is tough being a parent, because letting go is not easy. To think that we must come to terms with the fact that we will probably have our kids at home only until they’re 12th graders, hurts.
We have to be prepared for it, yet that niggly little pain is always there. We know their life is just beginning, yet we feel a sense of sadness.
I am guessing it is the same for all parents.
When I received the book U-Thrive by Daniel Lerner recently, I wish I had read it two years ago! But even now, it is a great read for me because I confess that two years down the line after my son began studying on campus, and I still get emotional when I see him on Skype.
I requested Daniel to write a guest post for me and he kindly obliged with a much needed topic. April-May-June is always tension-time for parents with high-school kids. I know it will help every parent going through the stage where they’re waiting for their kids to join college. Because when your kids leave home, you have to keep your Om.
Tips on Achieving Balance for your College Freshman and for You as a Parent
By Daniel Lerner
Your college freshman is undergoing the most change they may ever face in their life. That’s a fact. A new student faces living on their own for the first time, a whole new array of social opportunities (and challenges), what to eat, when to sleep, what to study, and of course the big one: what they will major in (which will drive even more choices down the road). That is a long way from your making their dinner, having a set schedule, a safe place when times are tough, and maybe even a curfew, to name just a few. They are faced with learning how to balance their life so that four years later they emerge not only with a degree and ready for the world, but with lifelong friendships and lasting memories.
As a parent, you are in a tricky place. The temptation to continue to parent the same way you’ve been parenting since you brought them into the world is great, but is that the best approach for you? And more importantly, is that the best approach for your kiddo?
As your son or daughter is learning to be independent and make responsible choices for their education, health and wellness, it can be challenging to adopt the partnership approach with them with which a maturing young adult can often thrive. Micromanaging can keep them dependent and unprepared for all that life holds when. Do you want them to become independent, free-thinkers who make good decisions? I’m going to assume your answer to that is “yes.”
Just like the changes your new college freshman is facing, your role as a parent is changing. Consider the following two scenarios::
- Your son comes home one weekend with a pile of laundry and looks tired and stressed. That’s it, you think. He’s staying out late and partying and he’s stressed because he hasn’t really been to class in weeks.
- Another scenario is that your daughter comes for a visit and has never looked more well-rested in her life. That’s it, you think. She’s not taking school seriously enough. She should be bleary eyed from all night study sessions. I bet she hasn’t been out of the bed before noon once this semester. She needs a much harder academic load.
Either way, it can be easy to assume the worst.
Rather than bring the hammer down on the tired student or add more pressure to the rested one, consider the positive possibilities. A well-rested individual, after all, makes better choices in their relationships, diet, and in the classroom. Then again, so does the one who is nurturing great friendships (even if that is keeping them up a little later than usual). Think of your own productivity under pressure, when you are tired or sick versus when you feel healthy and rested. Consider how important having strong social support has been when you are dealing with stress. There are many ways to help your son or daughter seek a healthy balance:
- Encourage them to put the books down and hang with friends when they feel the pressure is getting to them. Students with strong friendships are not only happier, they do better in the classroom (and later in life as well).
- Explore and discuss majors with them when they are conflicted and remind them of their natural aptitudes and interests. Pursuing those activities they are most interested in is more likely to lead to their discovering a healthy passion. Working with their strengths makes them almost 80% more likely to be engaged in their pursuits.
- Send care packages with healthy snacks as they will find enough junk to eat with dorm life. Studies show that students are as likely to feel comforted by carrots as they are by candy bars.
- Encourage healthy amounts of sleep, which includes striving for decent bedtimes and wake up calls. Students with consistent bedtime and wake-up times (no matter what these times are), have an average GPA over 3.5, whereas the GPA of more irregular sleepers is below 2.7.
Exploring new found independence with a safety net under them is key. You can’t hold their hands throughout the process, but you can certainly be there for them when they need you.
These college years are more than just career preparation. The habits they form in the first few years on their own will carry them through well after their diploma is hung on the wall. Help support their good ones (without pushing too hard), and you will be might just learn a thing or two yourself as well.
About Daniel Lerner
“U-Thrive” is available online and at booksellers. As a speaker, teacher, and strengths-based performance coach, Daniel Lerner is an expert in positive and performance psychologies. His key theme is that developing a healthy psychological state has a profound impact on the pursuit of excellence—a message that he brings to students, high-potential performing artists and athletes, and executives at Fortune 500 companies and startups worldwide. Following a decade representing and developing young performing artists with ICM artists and 21C Media (which he co-founded), Lerner studied closely with renowned sports psychologist Dr. Nathaniel Zinsser, focusing on coaching and performance enhancement techniques employed by professional and Olympic athletes, before earning a graduate degree in Applied Positive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Lerner is a faculty member at NYU Langone Medical Center and is on the instructional staff in the Master of Applied Positive Psychology program his alma mater. “The Science of Happiness”, co-taught with Alan Schlechter, is currently the largest and most popular non-required course at New York University. In the classroom and in his talks, Lerner integrates storytelling, humor, and science, helping students and professionals apply his teachings into their lives with immediate benefit.
Did you enjoy the post? I did.