Move-in Weekend

The New Year has Begun!

This past weekend, all across the country, emotions were piqued!  The culmination of so much planning, so much running around, so much hope and expectation came to fruition as new students moved in to residence halls.  Parents, students and volunteers carried box after box to this little space that will now serve as “home away from home.”  Even students who don’t live on campus sense the energy around getting emotionally and psychologically ready to begin the college experience. The excitement is palpable, as is the anxiety.

As you assess your own emotional state, be aware that students have their own uncertainties.  As you talk with your student about her new experience, be mindful that what you are feeling is not the same.  Be aware of ways in which you may be conveying your fear or loneliness in ways that may not be helpful to your student.

The college experience is one full of questions – and not just questions from professors. Many of these questions are connected to student’s exploration of self-identity. Over the next couple of weeks students are, in one form or fashion, asking questions such as:

  • Is this the right place for me?
  • Can I make a difference here?
  • Will people like me?
  • Who can I trust?
  • Who am I becoming?

I would encourage you to err on the side of curiosity rather than inquisition: asking open questions that promote dialogue, helping your student explore new layers of his self-identity.  It is time and energy well spent!

Dane.

Finding Courage for our Kids

I read this post from my friend and colleague Chip Dodd again not long ago and recognized that his comments about being truthful about who we are with our children and how we feel about their lives and our lives together never really changes.  I see how my feelings with my adult children is so similar to my feelings when they were young.  The circumstances or issues my have changed, but the deep feelings have not.

I’m hopeful that Chip’s perspective can help you find new courage to step further into the deep conversation…

Peace, Dane

http://chipdodd.com/blog/fear-of-children

 

Peace for the Journey…

Poems help me find language.  Language that speaks directly to the concerns and hopes that are building daily as we look toward parting way with our daughter/son at the end of Move-In Weekend. You might begin reading poems with a newly attentive eye to your own awareness of all the memories you carry; all the hopes and dreams, all the longing. So much we want to say…. So much we hope for… So much….

I posted a reflection recently about how, as parents, we have been practicing letting go from the very early years of our kids lives – even if we weren’t aware that that is what we were doing.  This poem couldn’t be more timely in what I know is bouncing around inside each of us. I’m hopeful that Sharon’s words below may help you find your own.

Peace, Dane

The Summer-Camp Bus Pulls Away from the Curb

by Sharon Olds

Whatever he needs, he has or doesn’t

have by now.

Whatever the world is going to do to him

it has started to do. With a pencil and two

Hardy Boys and a peanut butter sandwich and

grapes he is on his way, there is nothing

more we can do for him. Whatever is

stored in his heart, he can use, now.

Whatever he has laid up in his mind

he can call on. What he does not have

he can lack. The bus gets smaller and smaller, as one

folds a flag at the end of a ceremony,

onto itself, and onto itself, until

only a heavy wedge remains.

Whatever his exuberant soul

can do for him, it is doing right now.

Whatever his arrogance can do

it is doing to him. Everything

that’s been done to him, he will now do.

Everything that’s been placed in him

will come out, now, the contents of a trunk

unpacked and lined up on a bunk in the underpine light.

Put Your Mask on First…

My friend and colleague Melanie Rogers posted this very insightful and helpful perspective on the needs of adolescents, which would certainly include your soon-to-be college freshman.  I’m grateful for her vast experience and calm perspective in her words.  I hope that you find this helpful and another guiding voice in this new journey.  Thank you Melanie!

Written by Melanie Rogers, MMFT, LPC-MHSP

When I tell people I work with teenagers, I usually get some version of this response:
“Wow, that’s a tough age. You must be really patient, brave, or crazy.”

I may be a little bit of all three.

The changes that occur in the teenage years make working with (and parenting) teenagers both scary and (potentially) really fun.

Whether the “issue” that brings an adolescent into therapy is anxiety, self- harm, sexual acting out, depression, or relational struggles, a parent’s biggest question is some version of: “How do I make my child’s pain and suffering go away?” or “What does my child need?”

My answer to this heart-wrenching question is: “They need you.” My response is normally met with a mixture of confusion and fear. Your teenager’s biggest need is not for their pain to be fixed.

If their need isn’t to be fixed by their parents, then what on earth do they need? Here are three things every adolescent needs from their parents.

1. Teenagers need their parents to help hold their pain by being emotionally present.
Being emotionally present means giving them permission to feel their own feelings without being shamed, judged, or abandoned.

2. Adolescents need to know that they are enjoyed just for being who they are, not based on how well they can perform certain activities.

3. Finally, teenagers need consistent boundaries. Consistent boundaries help teenagers feel safe, giving them the freedom to explore and develop their own internal boundaries (wisdom and discernment) within the safety net that external boundaries provide.

That sounds simple enough, right? So, what makes it so hard?

Teenagers are amazingly adept at stumbling upon and bringing to the surface their parent’s own need for healing and restoration. Teenagers are like soldiers stumbling through a mine field with clown shoes on, never missing an opportunity to trigger their parents own “unfinished business.” A parent’s emotional reactivity, impulsive behaviors, and distorted perceptions of their child may all be indicators that point to the parent’s unresolved trauma and leftover “issues.” Sadly, this reactive and inflexible state of mind impairs a parent’s ability to think clearly, and remain flexible in their responses, ultimately preventing parents from being able to give their children what they most need.

Adolescents need parents to have access to their own feelings. Having access to their own stories and the the feelings that go with them allows parents to not be as reactive to getting triggered by their children. Simply, the clumsy teenage minesweeper won’t be able to trip the alarms as easily, because the parents will know where they end and their children begin.

Put on your own oxygen mask first.

In short, the most loving thing you can do for your teenager is to put on your own oxygen mask first, so you can see and think clearly to help your teenager navigate the stormy seas of adolescenc

Melanie Rogers is a therapist at Sage Hill Counseling in Nashville, Tennessee. She loves inviting people to explore their own interior landscapes, challenging them to be intrigued with the bigger story being told in and through their lives. Melanie loves nothing more than to see her clients discovering, recovering, and living from their truest self.

A Year in the Life of a Freshman: August

The following is a month-by-month walk through the major transitional issues in a fairly typical freshman year.  Certainly these will look a little different from student to student, but after many years of observation and experience, these major themes remain fairly consistent.

Following them to the letter won’t assure you and your student a trouble-free year, but, hopefully, knowing what to expect might minimize the anxiety just a little; for both of you.

August

Transition Issues

  • Excitement & Anxiety about the unknown
  • Making sure reminders of home are packed
  • Celebrate the transition from High School to College
  • Conversations about Alcohol & other drugs

Tips for Successful Parenting

This is the most significant transition in your student’s life to date.  It presents a great opportunity to Continue reading “A Year in the Life of a Freshman: August”