Moving Up and Out

July 5, 2017

Do you have teens? And how’s that working for you? Children and teens are faced with a variety of development tasks at many points as they grow up and there are a few stages in life when young people may encounter multiple challenges all at once. This is particularly true in the transition from high school to college. This is an exciting time that typically leads to some maturity-leaps, but can also be a time of difficulty and even anxiety. Do you remember your own graduation from high school and the thrill of getting out on your own? And do you also remember it as also being pretty scary too?

The transition is an important event for families as well, because the family unit undergoes some of its own dynamic changes. For our oldest son, the transition was a breeze, but for our next graduate, the shift from “under Mom and Dad’s roof” to “footloose and fancy free” was fraught with more than our fair share of problems. For some students in their senior years of high school and post-graduation, there are daunting personal challenges bundled into the transition. These include struggles with questions about interests, goals and identity. The adolescent encounters the question, “Who am I?” in many different forms, from “What kind of job do I want?” to “What kind of social environment will I choose?” to “How am I going to afford to live on my own?”

And the list of challenges for students in their freshman year in college is remarkably long, encompassing many unanswered questions, incomplete developmental tasks and a HUGE HELPING of EVERYTHING NEW! Adjusting to the multitude of changes that leaving home, finding a new social circle and learning with a unique set of rules, can be overwhelming – we see it pretty frequently.

From a psychological perspective, in order to negotiate the transition from high school to college, a young person must move towards forming his or her unique identity and becoming more independent, which includes separating emotionally (and often geographically), from his or her parents. These psychological hurtles are especially demanding as young people don’t always have the luxury of working on them while everything else (academic demands, social experiences, etc.) remains the same (Clarke, 2005).

So what is a parent to do? Research has shown that teens do better during this transitional period with continued encouragement and support. The push and pull for independence makes this difficult sometimes, because let’s face it…who wants to support a teenager who is breaking curfew, rolling their eyes or shutting down at the first suggestion of responsibility and neglecting chores in favor of Snapchat?

Sometimes this rebellion is a struggle with the anxiety around becoming more independent. Ask your teen, “How are you feeling about all of the new opportunities ahead of you?”,

“How can I help you keep up with your responsibilities to yourself and the family, while also encouraging you to grow up?”. And sometimes, it helps to get a professional involved who can determine if the rebellion is more about “growing pains” or something counterproductive to independence.

Ask yourself and your teen, the right questions and, if your communication is suffering, get some help! Also consider suggesting to your teen that they join us at The Wise Family for our 10-hour College Readiness Intensive (which we should really rename to be the Life Readiness Intensive). Everyone will be glad when they know they are not alone!

As always, Be Wise!





Article featured in the March 2017 edition of Fairfax Woman. See it HERE