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”

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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