When Success Leads to Failure…

Periodically I bump into articulate explorations of topics near and dear to the heart of this on-going conversation about how we attentively partner with our college-aged children.  There are more than enough articles in the public conversation detailing the negative ripple-effects of helicopter parenting (many of which are based in a finger-wagging shame that I don’t sense really adds value to the conversation).

Fortunately, there are also thoughtfully pieces with the quality of what I’ve begun calling a “healthy emotional archeology” – that is, writing that leads to a deep consideration of the personal and cultural dynamics of this thing we call parenting.

I find the Atlantic article below to be one of those.  It has a grounded criticism alongside what I find to be thoughtful and helpful questions that can bring us back to our own story as well as the larger cultural story and the ways we may have each, at least implicitly,  made some small contribution to it’s narrative.

I would invite you to consider the issue for yourself and your children, as well as the larger cultural ethos the author shines a bright light on.

As always, Peace on your journey…

Dane

http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/08/when-success-leads-to-failure/400925/?utm_source=On+Being+Newsletter&utm_campaign=09b0d5e36a-20150822_rex_jung_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1c66543c2f-09b0d5e36a-69848605.

Remembering and Letting Go…

As we consider all the ways in which our lives present this question of Letting Go, we can find that we’re either open to it, or resistant to it.  There is no doubt that what Letting Go asks of us is difficult!  We have been investing in the care and nurture and success of our children since before they were born; AND, we are confronted with myriad examples of ways to let go of our attachments to them from their earlier years.  We let go of their hands when they learn to walk, we release our grip on the back of the seat when they learn to ride a bike, we wave goodbye as they walk into school for the first time; the list is nearly endless.

I remember when my own adult daughter left the country for six months on a work assignment.  I was faced again with this question: “How am I holding on in ways that could hold both of us from the truth and beauty of what lies ahead?

So as I came to the reading of the blog post today, I was struck, again, by the beautiful and excruciating truth of the on-going process.  I’m grateful for the vulnerability offered here by Christine Cleary as she remembers what was, while letting it go in order to be fully present to both the sadness and gladness of what now is.

I’m hopeful that Christine’s words help craft this conversation in new ways for each of you.

Peace for your journey, Dane

http://www.onbeing.org/blog/christine-cleary-the-sweet-tension-of-remembering-and-letting-go/7996

The Heart Stays Open ~

“God breaks the heart again and again until it stays open.”
Hazrat Inayat Khan

I am struck by this statement.  I knew it once only by assertion, but was then taught by life to know it deeply through experience.  We are, especially as parents, regularly “invited” to this vulnerable place – this place of offering our heart again and again.

I am grateful for the insight Laura Kelly Fanucci lays out before us here in the endless invitation to offer our open hearts…

Blessings on the Journey!  Dane

http://www.onbeing.org/blog/until-the-heart-stays-open/7522?utm_source=On+Being+Newsletter&utm_campaign=8601cff829-20150704_bela_fleck_Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1c66543c2f-8601cff829-69848605#.VZkt20o8KrX.

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.

Financing Sense – A Syllabus…

As the price of higher education becomes more expensive year after year, it becomes incumbent for both parents and students to be more informed and savvy about finding ways to make this dream more accessible and less costly over time.  It’s a daunting task for most families; especially for those students who will absorb the primary responsibility of financing their own education.

I’m grateful to one of our readers (thank you Brandi) for the link to the following graphic from CompareCards.com.  It is a comprehensive and thoughtful treatment of a long-term relationship with finance and debt of college expenses, and ways for students to begin a life of negotiating the intricacies of the financial marketplace.

I might suggest that you sit down with your student to walk and talk your way through this step-by-step process of considering the ways your family’s unique financial situation will come to play as your student begins the college experience.

http://blog.comparecards.com/infographics/financeu-syllabus/

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What I wish someone had told me….

I recognize that at this point in the college transition process, there are questions that parents have, and there are questions that students have.  Some of those questions overlap and some are inherently different.

While I typically address the questions parents may be asking, I sensed it might be helpful for parents to hear with their students about the questions that some rising freshman may not yet know how to articulate. Many of these questions are around core identity issues, such as; will I make friends, will I do OK academically, will I miss home, and the like.

So, I asked several of the students in the First Year Seminar course I teach what they wish someone would have told them.  I’m hopeful that this help you begin to articulate what you hope for and wonder about.

Peace, Dane

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Transitioning to college is certainly an uneasy time. There are many mixed emotions including nervousness, excitement, and confusion. I wish I had known that college work is not a scary beast that is impossible to tame. If a student allots the proper amount of time to calmly complete an assignment, the school work is easily manageable. Also, I wish I had known that being so far away from home is really not scary, it is freeing. While there may be moments of homesickness, the precious time spent with loved ones is that much more cherished after having been away.   Julienne

I wasn’t worried about the grades since I felt motivated that what I would be doing in college would be more relevant to what I want to pursue. However I will say freshman year there will have to be some pointless classes you have to get out of the way ( not FYS of course ) but staying inspired in the courses that are relevant to you is critical! On a more personal note, dealing with a relationship entering college is going to be much different, the people, the place and sometimes people change and they come or go from your life as was the case with me. Things will change and people will be out of your life but so is the way of this world and all that can come from it is another way to connect with another soul. It’s a chapter and they should be excited! Don’t worry about what you can’t control and don’t take for granted where you are.   Nick

Most of my questions revolved around how to get involved but not get overwhelmed. It is an entirely new experience that we cannot ever fully prepare for. Once I realized that I could focus on what I wanted and not only making the best for my future but also for now I was a lot more relaxed. I learned that it is okay to sit in my room for a day if I don’t feel like forcing myself to meet new people and it is also ok to try and get to know others. You have to figure out what interests you and what is the right process. Even following your own study habits becomes easier.

I didn’t know what the workload would be like. It is very different than past years of school. Our schedules are more spread out, we are held responsible for getting our work in, there isn’t daily homework but teachers don’t leave you out on a limb. They generally remind you when something big is coming up and help you make the most of the work you do, instead of a bunch of busy work. While it is more challenging, the way it is approached makes it a lot easier than I had anticipated. It isn’t as bad as high school teachers lead us to believe when they say they are “preparing you.” AP classes felt like torture but they aren’t pointless, they make college seem a billion times easier.

Most of what I had been worried about as far as technical stuff was concerned (finding my classes, registration etc) was addressed. It isn’t hard to find someone willing to help direct a lost freshman or answer questions. It is the more personal things that can be troublesome.  Monica

Before college I had a huge concern about keeping up with the workload. I was an honor student in high school, but I wasn’t sure if that would translate to college. So, something that the high school students might like to know is that college can be challenging, but it is very much manageable. Although things may seemed overwhelming at first, I found a way to manage my time properly so that I had fun, but I got my work done without getting too stressed about it (by prioritizing and not having too much fun, but knowing when I need to work instead of hangout with my friends…)   Also, they are probably concerned about making friends as I was. However, I discovered that there’s a place for everybody and you don’t have to try hard to find it, because it will find you.   Travis

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The Core of the “Family Blessing”

 As I again enter into the Orientation season, I am reminded of the power inherent in the core of what I call the “Family Blessing.”  The core of this message is focusing on building self-competency for your daughter/son: that she/he can do this, and that she/he is not alone!

Each student has “landmarks” in his journey, often people, who helped guide him to this pivotal point.  Each landmark – a family member, friend, neighbor, or mentor — took a sincere interest in helping guide his journey, and as such, each person has a vested interest in his success.

I believe it is essential to http://www.collegeparent101.com/wp-includes/js/tinymce/plugins/wordpress/img/trans.gifconvey the Blessing both verbally and in writing.  The words of hope, encouragement, and support that make up the Blessing carry power such that they may make the difference between a successful first year and a mediocre one.  To be able to both hear and read these words provide students one of the most tangible foundations of trust I have seen in nearly 30 years in higher education.

Blessing letters might include words of…

  • excitement for the myriad possibilities that lie ahead
  • pride in her accomplishments
  • support for him in the path he chooses
  • trust in her ability to make wise decisions based in her own self-knowledge
  • words born out of spiritual, family, and/or community relationships

In turn, and equally as valuable, are the things I’d encourage you NOT to say; such as,

  • comments related to her making YOU proud
  • remarks that convey that he is responsible for YOUR feelings
  • stories that are, in reality, about YOUR fears
  • ways in which you may be expressing a lack of trust: often connected to the word “Should” (I’ll devote a future post to talk about this)

Here is a portion of an email from a Dad in Missouri, speaking to his own experience of conveying the Blessing:

“…one thing that stuck with me from your presentation was to give our son our “blessing.”  That never dawned on me, and I wish I had known of its importance when his older sister went off to college.  Before we left after move-in weekend, we stopped for a parting prayer.  But before that prayer I was able to speak to our (mom’s & dad’s) belief that he would be a success, had our full unqualified support, and that he had our full blessing.  A spontaneous group hug and tears quickly followed.  While I know I’m preaching to the choir, you can’t emphasize this enough to new college parents.  I had no idea how important it was for him until that day.  And as you pointed out, the choice of words is essential.”

Peace, Dane

p.s. If you are willing to share a copy of your Blessing letter &/or your student’s response, I’d be glad to hear from you!  Please include your name & home state – thanks!

 

 

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