Michael Costigan is a 17 – year-old from Orange County, CA. He is a social entrepreneur, public speaker, and truly enjoys helping other’s better understand teen related issues. You can follow him at www.SpeakingofMichael.com
Before you read this, you need to know that I’m in the same place as every other student in the class of 2015. I haven’t “gone off to college” yet either. And so all I can do is offer to you what has helped me. I want try and aid in the process of it all. Of making decisions, managing stress, and enjoying the final days of senior year. For all of the parents reading this, I hope that I can shed some light on the mind of a high school senior. Their thoughts, concerns, and hopes for the future are at an all time high for senior year, and probably an all time high for their teenage years.
Going to college is something that is almost always necessary in today’s world. And that’s a good thing. Not only does college provide the obvious education and social foundation needed for young adults as they enter into their most formative years, but it also creates a sense of independence — which is absolutely necessary to grow. Without this independence, students, young adults really, are inhibited for their rest of their lives because they are more likely to rely on others to get them through even the most mundane things in life. Not that relying on others is always a bad thing, but self-independence is the needed counter to learned helplessness — something that all too many young adults display today. Self-reliance creates a robust prospect for the future, and independent living is the first step.
No parent wants to “lose” the child they parented all the way into adulthood. But many parents and parenting experts agree, the break between college and high school is usually for the better in terms of moral and psycho-social development. Now all of this is easy to say, after all, it’s what any 3rd party individual will say. I’m going to assume off of what I know, that actually being a parent is very different. You’re worried about many things: will they try drugs, party too hard, have sex? And you’re also worried about the lack of a safety net for them. There are a few exceptions, but many kids go to a school where they don’t know many existing students, or aren’t very close with them. If the college is out of driving distance, there also isn’t easy access to a family safety net. Here’s the thing though, those safety nets, of friends and family don’t just evaporate when one goes off to college. All of your child’s friends and parents will be going through the same feelings and running into the same problems. There’s good evidence to actually say true friendships grow regardless of distance, and more mature bonds form between children and their parents. After all, everyone really is only a text, call, or Skype call away, and flying home if something is really up, isn’t the end of the world.
Now, I would argue that not being able to easily run to a safety net is a great thing, probably an amazing thing, for your children. This is where children become real adults, where they realize their actual responsibilities, and where they begin to define themselves as who they really will be “when they grow up”. You’ve done a great job parenting, now it’s time to step back and let your child grow into adulthood. And let’s face it, there will be some things you just won’t know. You won’t be able to make these decisions always feeling sure of things, or confident that everything will work out. Some of these decisions need to be made out of rational judgement. Showing support and confidence in your child is vitally important to their confidence. It is also important to know that colleges go leaps and bounds to host freshmen activities in which, because everyone is all new to the scenario, friendships are easily formed. And if for some reason things really didn’t work out, students can always transfer. It’s not the end of the world, and just like anything else, you shouldn’t look at college as a four year commitment, but rather a one year commitment, may be even a semester at a time commitment. Very rarely do children want to come home once they’ve started college, so you really shouldn’t worry about this.
Chances are, any reservation or hesitation you have is coming from internal reasons. Perhaps you’re worried about the dynamic at home after your child leaves. Or maybe you’re straight up worried that you won’t be able to handle it emotionally. To concerns such as these, I would boldly say this isn’t your decision. You should not sacrifice their dreams for your comfort. This only reinforces the dependence they feel on you, rather than fostering a sense of true independence. Keeping your child under your watch, in your comfort zone, and from going off and doing what they really want to do is not contributing positively to your relationship with them at all. In fact it’s only hurting it. It’s only prolonging a necessary phase in life that all young adults must rise up to. If you think I’m wrong about this, think again. What you want is for a more mature and grounded individual to return from college, one who no longer needs parenting, but needs the wisdom on life that their parents can share. Parent’s are not the best teachers of living on your own, working, and becoming who you decide to be. Parents are there to instill in their children the proper values, morals, and personal esteem that they will need to become fully functioning adults who are highly capable and critical in their thinking.
I know, as I’m seeing now, that it can be a hard time. I hope this short article helps in the process!