LIFE BEYOND HIGH SCHOOL
Taken from “Transition to College: Separation and Change for Parents and Students”
Jess P. Shatkin, MD, MPH and the Staff of the NYU Child Study Center
Moving on to life after high school represents a significant step towards adulthood. Whether the student lives at home or goes away to attend college, the move represents an emotional separation for both parents and child. For most, the end of high school marks the symbolic end of childhood. The following are some suggestions about what parents can do to ease the transition, both for themselves and their child.
• Ideally, discussions about values, which have occurred throughout the child’s life, serve as a foundation. Before the send-off, however, it is useful to re-discuss specific issues, since college students are usually confronted with situations involving sex, drugs and alcohol, as well as tough academic and interpersonal issues.
• Address individual needs. Parents should investigate and inquire about available resources. Arranging for necessary services for a student with a learning disability, mental illness or physical condition should be done preventively.
• In the event of a crisis, it is preferable to support the student’s own coping and problem-solving abilities rather than to rush in as savior, however difficult it is to hear cries of distress. Crises described from afar often sound worse than they are and can often change dramatically in the course of a few minutes or days.
• Guide rather than pressure. Your children need to pursue their own passions. Although parental input can be useful, children should not be expected to live out their parents’ dreams. This should be a time of self-discovery, even if the process is marked by some fits and starts.
• Plan ahead, i.e. deciding about such things as checking accounts, phone cards and spending money before hitting the road is useful.
• Determine appropriate expectations and guidelines and be explicit. For example, if parents expect or want a weekly phone call, they must say so. If parents and students want to spend a particular holiday together, they should plan ahead.
• Allow for mistakes. Parents must encourage and accept the child’s ability to make independent decisions. Both the college student and the parents must realize mistakes will be made along the way – it’s called life experience.
Learning from mistakes is another type of learning.