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Helping high school students transition into young adulthood

High school Graduation is a transition time for parents as well as for their adult children.  For some, it is a happy time and others find it a sad time, but either way, it can be an emotional time for the graduate and their parents.   Today we are going to share advice with parents on how to navigate this time of transition for their adult child and the family.   

Nearly 65% of Indiana’s graduating seniors are college-bound, so in addition to graduating from high school, they may be embarking on a new journey as a college student.  For students and their parents, every ending can be an exciting new beginning.

A few generations ago high-school graduates rarely went to college, yet through the years, college has almost become a rite of passage for the majority of teens to become an adult and pursue a career.

How can parents set their graduating adult child up for success?

Home Sickness is not solved at home. Making connections at college (or in their new adult working world), feeling like one belongs, getting involved, attending events, developing relationships with peers and faculty/staff/mentors/supervisors aids in homesickness.  Going home to parents does not cure homesickness.

Expectations for this new Chapter in Life.  Talk about expectations before graduation and again after graduation when the transition officially begins.  Discuss money, communication, visits to home, visits to college (or wherever the child resides), work, social life, academics/education and behavior issues.

Don’t immediately change your child’s room, get a new pet, or make other drastic changes in the first year. The graduate's room is ‘home base’ – try not to change it very much during his or her first year away. Freshmen, in particular, can go through some very difficult times, passing exams, establishing new friendships, surviving in a setting where they are not ‘top dog,’ and often fearing that admissions have made a mistake — that they do not really belong at college. Those not going to college also need to feel a sense of security in that part of their past and identity is still intact at home.  Give them a ‘safe haven.’  This gives the parents time to transition too as they develop plans to utilize the room.

When a problem arises, move like your feet are stuck in molasses.
The temptation is to intervene or react when an adult child calls home with a problem.  There will be conflict and stress, especially in the early years of adulthood.  Express support, but give your children time to solve their own problems—it will ultimately benefit them. Colleges have many safety nets, including resident advisers who are trained to identify and handle just about any problem you can imagine.

College is a lot harder than high school.  Ask how courses are going and what they are learning but not about grades.  Ask open-ended question about all aspects of school.  Avoid saying “when I was in college….” as times have changed and it is best to listen and not lecture.

Time Management.  Parents should not do wake up calls!  Adult children need to structure their time on their own including sleeping, studying, errands, eating, and life in general.

Life is a roller coaster ride.  The first few years of adulthood include many highs and lows and an adult child’s interests and friends may change.  There will be times when it feels like the “sky is falling” but try not to make snap judgments and be opinionated versus being supportive, encouraging and a good listener.  Be patient with the highs and lows, take a deep breath and let the adult child navigate their own life.

Not all adult children will pursue college and that is okay.  Education is critical; college is not. There are numerous careers — in healthcare, technology, operations, transportation, and the building trades — that do not require a college degree.  For those not attending college, there are important actions to take to transition into adulthood and a good career.  It is important for parents to ensure their adult child takes steps to become independent adults after high school by encouraging continued growth and adult responsibilities.

Options for those not going to college:

  • Learn a Trade
  • Attend a Community College or Vocational School
  • Get a Job
  • Join the Military
  • Volunteer, Do Mission Work

15 'Don’t Go There' Tips For Parents of College Freshmen, by Lisa Micele

  1. Don’t make their leaving all about you.
  2. Don’t beat yourself up wondering if you prepared your child well enough for college.
  3. Don’t be passive. Initiate conversation and discuss the new expectations of your relationship.
  4. Don’t say "College is the best time of your life!" Be open with them about the highs and lows.
  5. Don’t rescue your new freshman. Coach and empower them.
  6. Don’t second-guess your child. Trust them. You will undermine their ability to make decisions.
  7. Don’t monopolize their lives. Remember KISS (Keep It Short & Sweet) — with unobtrusive texts and quick "touch base" emails reminding them of your unconditional love and support.
  8. Don’t talk too much. When you do connect through calls or video chats, ask open-ended questions and LISTEN more than you speak!
  9. Don’t feel guilty. There are “new beginnings” and adventures awaiting both students and parents in this transition. It is okay to look forward to this new chapter in your life with excitement as well.
  10. Don’t perpetuate the stigma. Talk openly about healthy social & emotional tools and mental health services on campus. Remind your student repeatedly that asking for help is NOT a sign of weakness.
  11. Don’t turn their bedroom into a home gym. If changes will occur at home, discuss this with your freshman first. Maintain trust with your child.
  12. Don’t encourage a “Fixed Mindset” (Carolyn Dweck, Ph.D.) by focusing on grades and outcomes. Instead, focus on embracing challenges; learning from mistakes; persistence & effort.
  13. Don’t be an open ATM for your student. Talk about finances and set a budget.
  14. Don’t make surprise visits to campus. Be respectful of your freshman & newfound independence. Plan ahead with proactive communication.
  15. Don’t forget... your child will always need you!

Parents: Remember to attend all orientation events, visit the college website for specific transition tips, and be familiar with the college support services/resources on their new campus. You can do this too!

Resource links for parents of graduating seniors:

For college-bound students:

http://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/letting-go-new-college-students/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2014/09/02/9-tips-on-how-to-be-a-good-college-parent/?utm_term=.d90a8034a7bd

http://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2016/08/25/emotions-college-students

For those not going to college:

https://www.livecareer.com/quintessential/college-alternatives

Courtesy of Social Health Association of Indiana, an educational nonprofit organization empowering youth to make responsible choices and adopt healthy behaviors.

Parent resources are available on the website: www.socialhealth.org  or by calling 317-667-0340