Change · Difficult Situations

Part 2: Navigating the College Planning Process

Last week, I highlighted some useful advice from a podcast I did with Bright Futures Consulting. This week, I am back to offer some more valuable insights.

Use flexible thinking

When we work with a student from a blended family, there are usually a lot of moving parts. Everyone involved is human. With that realization, your student will see there are good and bad parts to each parent and themselves. 

All or nothing thinking about a parent or a zero vs. hero mentality needs to be moved out of the way for flexible thinking. Look for all the ways you can compromise with your co-parent for the benefit of your student. 

Use courtesy and respect

The goal is always to treat each other with courtesy and respect. For the child to reach that level of respect for all parties, the parents need to model the behavior. Once that happens, they can decide to show each parent love, courtesy, and respect. Part of that goes into understanding what’s going on with the other person and their perspective. Honor each person’s perspective.

Your emotions are contagious

Try not to let your own anxiety or fear as a parent be put on your student. They have their own. Parents and teenagers are very aware of their surroundings and environmental pressures. They understand fear, anger, and worry. 

Find balance

Parents need to release some of their control. Your high school student should be owning their homework, discussions, and teachers. That’s not your job as a parent anymore. If you don’t loosen the reins of control, your child may leave and never come back. 

Support your student’s voice and let them practice on you!

Developmentally, your student needs to learn how to stand up to people, starting with you. So you need to allow this. If a daughter or son stands up and voices their feelings about college or other things, and the parents tell him/her not to talk back to them, what do you think will happen when they get to college? They won’t be able to stand on their own. You want your children to be strong and independent. That starts at home. As the parent of a college-bound teen, you need to accept what your child says at face value. 

Transitions are challenging for students and parents

Once teenagers go off to college, many parents have adjustment issues of their own. Your teenager should be getting their support on campus and not expecting you to solve all their issues. They have it in themselves to decide what to eat, manage their time, turn in assignments, and pay rent on time. If you’re involved every step of the way, it will delay your child’s development. 

Start new traditions

New traditions are so important in blended families. Holidays, transitions, and starting school are all opportunities for growth or for disaster. Get ahead of it by smoothly creating new traditions now. College is the first big life transition. Exes need to figure out how to make this transition peaceful because it sets the stage for upcoming transitions, including college graduation, weddings, babies, etc. This is just the first one! 

Use the Birkman

Beth and her team at Bright Futures encourage your student to use the Birkman Assessment, which can be a great way to help you and your teen. The Birkman is a tool to use in the college planning process and beyond because it gives insights to the hows and whys behind your student’s personality, behaviors, and needs.

It also helps parents understand their student’s needs. When you and your co-parents have a better understanding of your child, the focus on the child’s authentic success can remain central. This can also help mitigate arguments.

For more great information and tips, please listen the 2nd part of the podcast here.

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