Peace for the Journey…

Endbeginnings –

In clear simplicity, Dr. Rachel Remen talks about her own realization that, “there is no ending without a beginning. That beginnings and endings are always right up against each other.  Nothing ever ends without something else beginning or begins without something else ending.  Perhaps this would be easier to remember if we had a word for it.  Something like “endbegin,” or “beginend.”

So, here we are looking eye-to-eye with the “endbegin” or “beginend” of our daughter or son beginning the college journey.  I know from my own experience as a parent of a new student that this time led to feelings I wasn’t sure what to do with.  I’m confident I said some things, or didn’t say others because I didn’t exactly know what to do with what seemed the awkward end, or was it the beginning?

For many of us, this is uncharted territory — be it our first child going away, or maybe out last. What would you call this time? Are you fighting an ending?  I’d encourage you to ask your daughter/son how they see or feel about the endbegin – to see it through her/his eyes could be a beginend!

Peace, Dane.

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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Learning to Fail

I re-post this entry every year.  The posting has, to date, received more “likes” and comments than any other, so I sense that what I set out to say hit its target.  So for those of you who have recently marched through high school graduation activities and are on the threshold of this process, I’m hopeful that this message will have a “centering effect” for all of us seeking to be successful in parenting our kids well!

As we take a serious look at the transition, my sense is that one of the primary issues for us as parents is the fear of something we can’t imagine actually happening to our daughter or son.  Our culture is bent on the pursuit of success.  So, if that is true – and I’m convinced it is – the idea of failure is often one that we expend a lot of energy trying to avoid and helping others avoid, especially those we care deeply for.

In my First-Year Seminar course for new Freshman, we would spend an entire class period exploring the idea of “Failure” in order to expand our thinking about what it is, why it’s scary, and what we’re really afraid of – why have we been taught to avoid something that’s likely inevitable, and is actually a helpful component of the learning process?  A number of the resources we use introduce us to how necessary (read: “vital”) failure is to reaching success; no matter the topic or pursuit.  I know, it sounds counter-intuitive, but when I examine my own path, I know – and I mean, REALLY know – that it is true.  Rarely do I learn some valuable piece of instruction or awareness for life when things are going well, frankly because I’m not forced or called or required to pay attention as I do when things aren’t going as planned.

It is only when things don’t work; when I’ve gone from Plan A to B, then C, then D, that I begin to ask the hard, searching questions that lead me to new insight, or to ask for help, or start over.  I’m reminded of the great inventor, Thomas Edison.  He’s famous as much for what he created as he is for putting a new perspective on the idea of “failure.”  He believed it was essential in his pursuit of the next great discovery.  He is quoted as saying such things as, “Negative results are just what I want.  They’re just as valuable to me as positive results.  I can never find the thing that does the job best until I find the ones that don’t.”  And, “I have not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Alison Gopnik, a psychology and philosophy professor, points out that many of us now approach the role of raising humans like carpenters. In short, we try to carve them into our own image of what a successful adult looks like. Her suggestion? Think of yourself more akin to a gardener — you create the right conditions and let nature do the rest. “Our job as parents is not to make a particular kind of child,” she writes in her recent book, The Gardener and the Carpenter. “Instead, our job is to provide a protected space of love, safety, and stability in which children can flourish.”

So as I was recently reading Anne Lamott’s new book, Some Assembly Required (Riverhead books, 2012), in which she and her son co-write about the parent-child relational transition in ways only Anne can do, I heard her speaking directly to our parental desire to – with the greatest of intentions and hope – keep our children from getting hurt.  In doing so, we, in essence, may be keeping them from experiencing life (read: failing) in ways that prepare them for the very life they are meant to live.  Her good friend Bonnie says to her, “You’ve got to learn to let go and let your children fall, and fail.  If you try to protect them from hurt, and always rush to their side with Band-Aids, they won’t learn about life and what is true, what works, what helps, and what are real consequences of certain kinds of behavior.  When they do get hurt, which they will, they won’t know how to take care of their grown selves.  They won’t even know where the aspirin is kept.”

So, in keeping with our on-going conversation about how to “show-up” well in this relational transition with our daughter and sons as they become the humans they came here to BE, take a time-out to examine your motives for comments, actions, and the like!  Are they designed to express your agenda for how your children’s life “should be”, or are they oriented toward your daughter’s/son’s ever-developing (and necessary) sense of self-competency.

I’ll let Anne’s son Sam, usher us out today with one of his growing realizations about the life he was living – I can’t say it more clearly!: “I see the hardest patches as stepping stones for what I will need as I go out from here.”

Peace for the Journey, Dane

Insured?

When all the planning commenced to move your daughter/son off to school, one of the items that may not have made the checklist was insurance; it’s an easy one to forget.  Residence Life/Housing programs may recommend you check to see if homeowner’s and auto policies cover full-time students, but again, some may not.

So, if this is one of those items that slipped your mind, here is a great resource, written by a college student to other students. This may be a helpful piece to pass on to your student.

Note: Article below is reprinted from Erie Insurance (this is not an endorsement).

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By Amanda Prischak

Insurance isn’t usually top of mind for young adults heading off to college or renting their first apartment. (It wasn’t for us at the time, either.)

But, like mom and dad always say, with freedom comes responsibility—in this case, the responsibility to protect yourself, your belongings, and others by taking out renters and auto insurance policies.

“For many young people, leaving home means taking on new freedoms and developing a sense of responsibility,” says Loretta L. Worters, vice president of the Insurance Information Institute. “Part of that new responsibility means having the proper insurance to protect valuable belongings.”

The good news is that many young adults don’t even need to take out additional policies; and, for those who do, some policies cost mere cents a day. That should be good news to both young adults and the folks who taught them the many meanings of “safety first.”

Protect your (temporary) home

Insurance 101

Dorm dwellers and apartment renters alike should definitely get schooled in insurance. Young people who are not full-time students or who are over age 24 will want to learn even more.

“When kids are away at school, they’re considered residents of their parents’ household and are covered to the full limit of the parents’ homeowners or renter’s policy until they’re 24,” says Terry McConnell, ERIE’s vice president and manager in Personal Lines Underwriting. This holds true for dorms and apartments as long as the young adult is a full-time student and maintains residency in their parents’ home—which they must have lived in directly prior to moving out—as their permanent residence.

Things are a little stickier with non full-time students and renters who are 24 or older. To protect this group’s personal property against damage from fire, smoke, theft, vandalism, lightning and other common disasters, they’ll need to take out a standard renters insurance policy, such as ERIE’s Tenantcover Policy.

This policy offers personal property coverage, loss of use (coverage that kicks in to take care of living expenses associated with a temporary relocation), personal liability protection, and medical payments for damages or injury that occur in your rental unit or as a result of personal activities away from home. And, like a homeowners policy, you’ll have worldwide coverage that protects your possessions when you’re anywhere away from home, whether in an exotic locale or at a friend’s place across town.

Tenantcover protection (including liability protection), which starts at $100,000 and goes up to $1 million, typically costs less than $100 a year and costs far less when paired with an ERIE auto policy.  It’s recommended that renters consider at least a personal liability limit of $300,000 and that they opt for replacement cost over actual cash value.

“In an actual cash value settlement, if something happened to that T.V. you’ve had for 15 years, you’d receive the money it was worth with the depreciation factored in,” McConnell says. “With a replacement cost settlement, you’ll be able to buy a brand new T.V. There’s a small difference in premiums between the two, but the value it provides Customers dealing with an unfortunate situation is significant.”

Tips to keep your stuff safe

Even with a renter’s insurance policy in place, it still pays to practice some tips to stay safe and keep claims in check. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Safeguard pricier items—or just leave them at home. Dorms and rentals experience up to 50 percent more incidents of theft, with expensive bikes, jewelry, watches and laptops being some of the biggest targets. So take care to lock them up or leave them at a trusted residence that doesn’t have a high level of foot traffic.

Renters should also be aware that ERIE has a $3,000 coverage limit per item for theft of such things as jewelry and watches. So, if a prized possession is worth more, make sure to take out an additional personal inland marine rider (also known as a “floater”) on the policy.

  • Lock your doors. Sounds obvious, but most dorm thefts occur during the day.
  • Fireproof your home. Don’t leave candles, cigarettes and grills—the most common causes of fires—untended. To be extra safe, consider flameless candles, indoor grills and simply kicking the habit.
  • Engrave electronics. Engravings make it easier for police to track down stolen computers, televisions and iPods.
  • Create a home inventory. By saving all receipts from major purchases, making a detailed list of everything of value in your home, and photographing or videotaping your possessions, submitting a claim will be easier and you’re more likely to receive reimbursement for what’s stolen or damaged. To make the process a cinch, the Insurance Information Institute offers free online home inventory software at Know Your Stuff.
  • Consider adding Identity Recovery coverage to your policy. Young people are more likely to experience identity theft due to the extra time they log on the internet. Luckily, for just $20 a year, ERIE will do the dirty work of restoring your good name and reimbursing up to $25,000 of fraudulent credit card fees if it happens.

Protect your wheels

Students who leave their cars at home—or those taking them to campus while keeping the car’s permanent address at their parents’—can stay on the family policy. (If you garage it at home while you’re away at school, ERIE will knock up to 25 percent off your premium.) Things change, however, when the car permanently moves with the young adult.

“When you go out on your own, you’ll need to purchase your own policy under the new address and change your driver’s license if you’re moving permanently out of state,” says Dave Freeman, a vice president and manager, Personal Lines Underwriting.

Like all ERIE auto Customers, less experienced drivers enjoy knowing they have additional coverage along with their standard comprehensive coverage at no additional charge or premium.

“Young people are more likely to take advantage of our lockout coverage that pays up to $50 off a locksmith’s fee,” says Freeman. “We’ll also pay for a rental car or a taxi if the car is out of commission due to a covered loss.” (Learn more about these and other built-in extras on ERIE’s Web site.)

Freeman adds that drivers should also consider optional coverages such as road service assistance that provides reimbursement for towing, labor or transportation expenses; uninsured or underinsured coverage if the other driver doesn’t have auto insurance or enough of it; your injuries, and medical payments to cover medical or death benefits in the event of an accident.

Tips to keep your car safe

Lower the odds of experiencing any of these unwanted situations by following a few smart pieces of advice. (They’ll also lower your premiums and the chances you’ll have to shell out to cover your deductible—an added bonus since, like most insurers, ERIE doesn’t offer drivers the more inexpensive adult rate until they turn 24*.) * ERIE will use the adult rating at the renewal date following your 24th birthday, while many other insurers don’t offer adult rates until well into your late 20’s.

  • Be a conservative driver. You’ll not only keep yourself and other motorists safe, but also give your wallet a boost. “The biggest things that drive up premiums are accidents and tickets,” says Freeman. Obey posted speed limits, observe the rules of the road, and, most importantly, avoid calling or texting while driving.
  • Stick to a maintenance schedule. Mom and dad aren’t taking care of things anymore, so show your car some love by maintaining it  Check the air filter, automatic transmission fluid level on the dipstick, accessory belts, brake fluid, battery, powersteering fluid and coolant.  Also check the windshield wipers and amount of windshield washer fluid, hoses, wiring and the oil level on the dipstick. Also check the tires and keep them properly inflated.
  • Guard your key. More often than not, cars get stolen when owners leave keys out in the open or somewhere obvious like under the mat or visor.
  • Take extra precautions with used cars. Some—like inexpensive reconstructed title cars that have been rebuilt after being damaged—are unreliable. “For about $50, you can know for sure by having a mechanic look it over before you buy,” says Freeman.
  • Keep an extra long distance from—or just avoid—certain vehicles. Rochester Agent Rhett Van Scoter says he sees a lot of windshield damage that results from debris escaping from landscaping and dump trucks. His solution: pull over and let them pass.
  • Hide the high-value stuff. Van Scoter says most thefts occur when items like GPS devices, computers and iPods are left out in plain view of passers-by. Reduce temptation by putting them in a bag or storing them in your trunk.

On another note, if you think parking in a bustling area lowers your risk of theft, think again: “A smash-and-go theft takes less than 30 seconds, and most thefts occur in parking lots with a lot of foot traffic,” says Van Scoter.

Amanda Prischak is a freelance writer living in Erie, Pa. She’d like to thank her parents for covering her “excessive amount of stuff” under their ERIE Insurance homeowners policy during her college years..

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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Looking & Seeing

I find today a new sense of gratitude for Thomas Merton’s perspective…

“Because looking means that you already have something in mind for your eye to find; you’ve set out in search of your desired object and have closed off everything else presenting itself along the way.  But seeing is being open and receptive to what comes to the eye; your vision total and not targeted.”

Ron Seitz, Song for Nobody, A Memory Vision of Thomas Merton (italics added)
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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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Relationship by “Save As” —

As this new academic year begins, I recognize that it is often easier (read: less hard/difficult) to fall back on what I know, or how I have always done something.  I bump into the temptation every year, as I prepare the syllabus for a course I’ve taught a dozen times, to change the dates and hit “Save As”, then move on to the next item on the endless list.

So as I sat with the choice again late this summer.  I was faced with the question of how I might do this very familiar thing differently.  How might I consider another vantage point?  How might the opportunity present itself in ways I hadn’t previously considered?  In what ways might I engage with the students, the material, and my own sense of the experience differently so as to create a different outcome?

I did, ultimately, completely retool an assignment.  Time – and the student’s experience with it – will tell if the retooling is successful, but it has engaged me in a new level of attention and excitement about where this semester may go that previous semesters have not; as good as they were.

And, as regular readers here can attest, these musings typically lead me to find some connection to this task we’re on as parents to help move our students toward a greater, deeper sense of their own self-competency.

I overheard parents during Summer Orientation sessions talking to their students about how this new college experience was going to play out for their own children (some adamantly and with great certainty).   As a parent, I recognize that we do this all the time.  We talk to our kids about our own experience in ways that conveys that they need, or should, make decisions based on how WE did things, rather than allowing her to learn through her experience (which is likely how we actually learned ourselves). 

I recognize that when we talk out of our experience as a way to dictate our student’s experience, we are projecting on them a limited picture of what may be possible; a way in which we are creating a “Save As” experience – that her experience will be/should be/ought to be similar to my own.  I don’t sense that we set out with this goal in mind; to share our experience as a means of forming our student’s to be like our own, but at these liminal (threshold) points, that is often what and how our students hear the message. 

So, as a way of considering how you might parent differently than you have before – as you work intentionally to transition your relationship with your student – might you consider how you talk about your own experience in ways that may be conveying how you want/believe/hope/think your student’s path “should” look?  Are there ways in which you are expressing a “Save As” expectation in the ways you engage in conversation that may be limiting to/for your student’s unique experience? 

I wish you well as you seek to write a new story!

Peace, Dane

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What are my Roles?

As we consider again (and again, and again) the perpetual invitation to examine the ways in which we bring a sense of intention and purposefulness to being a parent, it is essential that we look at the parts we play in our children’s lives.

In my College Parent 101 presentation, I pose the following question to parents: “What roles do you hold with your daughter or son?”  Another way to view this might be: “What roles define your relationship?”  An additional way to consider this might be to ask, “How do the roles I have keep me attached to my daughter or son in particular ways?”  In my own experience as both parent and university faculty/administrator, I know that much of the struggle we experience, and/or our children experience with us, is around the ways we define our relationships.

If you would, take a moment to identify the Roles you hold with your new or rising college student.  Go ahead; grab a note pad and pen, and make a list.  What comes to mind?  Responses such as: teacher, mentor, coach, and friend come to mind quickly.  But, there are also a host of practical life-based roles we have assumed out of the necessity and demand of daily life, such as: taxi driver, scheduler, nurse, party planner, ATM machine, and the like.  We are often not fully aware of how we “live out” of these roles – sometimes multiple times a day – and how they define our relationships because we equate them with “being a parent.”

Now that I have identified a few more, return to your note pad and make a list of what you find to be true for yourself.  Whether you do it now, or later, please take a few minutes to do it for yourself and for your student.  These roles are often the very things that we hold on to without realizing it, which can ultimately lead to us staying stuck while needing to transition to a new kind of relationship – one with new roles; new ways of being in relationship.

It is vital for our success as parents, and for the success of our student’s self-competency and resiliency, that we be aware of the connections we have with each other and how either, or both of us may be holding on to them.  If we don’t acknowledge these; that is, recognize if and/or why they need to end or change, we will hold on to them longer than is necessary.  They then serve as stakes in the ground of our relationship, preventing us from moving forward to a mature and healthy new place.

The metaphor that I believe speaks well to this is: Our job as a parent is never over, but our job description is always changing.  In what ways may you be regularly looking – with intention – at your “job description”; releasing your hold on roles that you may need to let go of, or at least reconsider attaching to in a new way?  This is the good, hard work of relationship!

 

Prayer for the Journey

I often close my live College Parent 101 presentations with a few excerpts from a prayer written by Father Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, El Salvador. He was assassinated on March 24, 1980, while celebrating Mass in a small chapel in a cancer hospital where he lived.

To me, the prayer is a beautiful tribute at the heart of what it means to set a daughter or son off on a new journey, particularly one as significant and full of hope, excitement, concern, and even fear, as the college journey.  I’m hopeful that you find encouragement and support in his gracious words.

It helps now and then to step back and take a long view.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.

Nothing we do is complete

This is what we are about.

We plant the seeds that one day will grow.

We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.

We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.

This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.

It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

 

If you would like to see the prayer in its entirety, you need only Google: Prayer Archbishop Oscar Romero.