Preparing to let go.
As we talked about my friend’s second daughter going off to college, she remarked that it does not get any easier. “How did you do it? Letting go is very tough,” she exclaimed. As April rolls along, parents have to think of preparing for the inevitable. There are graduations to prepare for and final decisions to be made about where your child’s next few years will spent. Even if your child is not going to college you still have to prepare for how they will fare in the work place. Will they be a good fit for whatever job they choose? Are they going to stay home or do they want to get their own place? It seems like a multitude of decisions have to be made over the next few months. How does one prepare to let go?
1. Realize your child is also under stress.
Parents lament about how their children appear to be pulling away from them, even before it is time for them to leave. They just don’t understand why their child will not let them enjoy the last few months they have with them at home. Realize that your child is also going through the same emotions and may also be under stress. Teens at that age don’t want to readily admit the fear they are facing but it is very real to them. Some of these teens have never left home and now all of a sudden they are going to live with a roommate, sometimes in an entirely new city. Give them their space whilst reassuring them that it is normal to have some anxiety in every new situation. Reiterate to them that you are available to talk whenever they are ready and emphasize that they have what it takes for the next stage of life. Don’t burden them with your anxiety because then they have to worry about you too, and this just increases their stress.
2. Teach practical survival skills
If you have not done so already, this will be the time to start teaching your teen about basic things like laundry and how they can compress their belongings into very small living quarters. Teens want to take all their favorite clothes and mementos to school. Chances are there will not be enough room for all their belongings. Help them to choose wisely and please don’t make the classic mistake of going on a shopping spree and buying all new items. People talk about the “freshman twenty” and it is not a myth. I don’t know whether it is stress eating or the fact that they can eat whatever they like without mom saying “it’s not healthy” but quite a few teens do tend to gain a little weight before they eventually adjust and return to a more comfortable weight, then you can shop if you want. Talk to them about how to live peacefully with others. They have to be willing to make sacrifices for everyone’s well-being but at the same time not allow themselves to be bullied by others. Chances are you’ve already prepared them but for your own peace of mind, when the opportunity presents itself give them your word of advice.
3. Don’t forget about money management
Some teens are going to start managing their own money for the first time and to avoid frustration for everyone, sit together and talk about your expectations. If your child is full time at a college, they will have a meal plan. Select the most appropriate one for your child. Decide on how much money you will give a week for pocket money. You may want your teens to work but consider giving them the first year or at least the first semester to settle in before adding on a job. Going to college is a huge adjustment academically for some teens so you should know your child well enough to help them make that decision. Talk to them about spending wisely. We don’t want our teens to go to college and apply for different credit cards and just go on a shopping spree. The temptation is very real. Teach them money management and help them realize that someone had to work to earn the money in the first place and it should be spent wisely. Teens on scholarships have to maintain their grades to keep the scholarship money and this should also be taken into consideration.
Whether in the work place or in college, teens are going to come into contact with people with completely different backgrounds. They are going to make relationships, some excellent and some not so good. Take time to talk to them about their goals and why making the right relationships is so important. Talk to them about the dangers of following others blindly and getting involved with drugs, alcohol, or smoking or even indiscriminate sexual activities. Help them realize that the relationships they make now, can have far reaching consequences for their lives. Some relationships have led to great businesses and other entrepreneurial ideas. Let’s encourage our teens to choose their relationships wisely.
Letting go is never easy but with adequate preparation it is at least a little less stressful. If the relationship between you and your teen is a little strained, realize that your teen could be having some anxiety as well. Reassure them without overwhelming them. Let them know that you have an open door policy whenever they are ready to talk. Keep reinforcing the basic life skills you’ve already taught them and help them anticipate how they can adjust to living in a dormitory or how to get along with others in a new work environment. Prepare them for the new relationships that they will inevitably make and help them choose wisely. Remember in life, preparation is everything. Take time to make letting go as easy as possible for both you and your teens.