Remember that this transition is a massive one and far greater, more consequential, and life-changing than the application process itself.
It happens this time every year.
I realize I say the above just about every time I start a theme but:
1: it’s true, and;
2: there’s value in parents/students/communities knowing they are not alone.
“How can it be that my child has been accepted to her preferred universities and now isn’t even discussing it with us?” This question/concern—or some amalgamation of it—has been asked of me/directed to me already several times this month.
The Parent: thinking that not only the worst of the stress, anxiety, fear and plain-old-difficulty of the previous months of the application process is behind them and awaits--with acceptances rolling in--excitement, bliss, and happiness.
The Student: with the anxiety of the application process behind him, the stress, the tension, the massive amount of work and now with acceptances in his hand realizes either consciously or sub-consciously that this process is deceiving because just what he wanted and waited for is now scaring the **** out of him. And, he has various ways of expressing—or not—his anxiety about what is about to happen in the next months of his life.
This is what is freaking the parents out.
Of course we are speaking about human beings so as you read this you must understand that every single person’s experience through this process will be unique. But there is overlap. Sure I have students who are incredibly excited at this stage, already planning their move-in and checking weekly with their university’s website to see what’s going on. But, I’ll be honest: these students are few. And, I would garner that this “reality” is surprising to most [parents]—“we expected nothing but happiness that she was accepted by her universities of choice!”—and also to students, to be fair.
This is the first moment in the student’s life where the reality of university speaks to them: they have been accepted and, well, are meant to accept one back.
This means it’s happening.
This means they are leaving home.
This means adulthood is looming.
This means they will live with someone they don’t know next year.
This means parents/guardians—with all their annoyances—won’t be around.
This also means a whole new world of studying and being assessed.
And what if I don’t even fit in?
So, students handle this reality in myriad ways. We can’t predict how a young adult will react and yet have to identify it and help them as best we can.
Are they talking to you about it? (Many won’t; it makes the reality less…real.) Do you sense they need space? (Give it to them. But come around in due time with a huge heart and an open mind and ears.) Are they acting out? (Taking out their anxiety on those who give them unconditional love?) Are they shutting you out? (Preparing to not be around you all the time?) Remember that this transition is a massive one and far greater, more consequential, and life-changing than the application process itself. Ultimately, filling out those applications—even if it took years of progress and process to get to—doesn’t make it a reality. That’s coming now. And, for many it’s traumatic.
You can do things at this time to help your child—and you.
• Give space.
• Let your child go through his emotions (even if he’s not showing any—he’s got them).
• When the time is right, bring up the topic in a relaxed, non-pressured way, perhaps even in a neutral spot (ie: not your child’s bedroom). Ask your child how she’s feeling. Don’t expect the feelings and answers to come out in one chat or moment.
• Try not to ask direct questions that could show your own stress and need to finalize/reach a conclusion. (ie: So, where do you want to attend university? Have you made up your mind?)
• Try not to use comparisons. (ie: Sandra has already sent in her acceptance back to X university!)
• Does your child have a mentor? Perhaps she can talk to him, too.
• As best you can, try not to stress about it yourself; your child reads you like a book and that will only add to the pressure she’s putting on herself. She ultimately knows what is coming and will reach a point of being proud of her accomplishments, excited about her future and ready to move forward.
And, remember: everyone is different. You could not predict how your child would be at this stage; she’s different than anyone else, including you. Respect that and soon conclusions will be made and she’ll be ready. This happens in some form or other to every single young adult going through this process. It’s a rite of passage and he will get through. At his own pace.