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Getting to College - Understanding Changes

By Kristin Thomas, College Consultant & Guest Contributor

Part of being a college consultant – and an aspect I love – is attending conferences and visiting universities. As I type from my 11th floor beautiful, ocean view dorm on the University of British Columbia campus, and reflect on the major changes young people are experiencing in this phase of their development.

Being a college coach is all about relationships. In one of the many excellent sessions I attended today, Mike Haykin shared his interesting perspectives and knowledge on the importance of addressing developmental changes directly with both the students we work with and their parents.

Part of my role as an advisor and guide through these crucial teen years, is to help both the student and the parents become more self aware of their own developmental changes happening during the time period of life during the college process.

For the parent every ‘first’ for their child is a first for them. Even more ‘present’ then their own issues in their everyday relationships, is the often wildly fluctuating states they find their teenager during the college process.

Parents are more equipped to support students through challenging times if they acknowledge and understand different ‘classic’ states they may find them in. And realize they most can lead down both positive and negative paths.

The Critical Thinking Teen- Critical of, well, absolutely everything & everyone – especially themselves. This can affect their self-esteem.

The Pride in Suffering Teen – Overloading themselves with activities and classes. Then feeling very self-righteous about it.

Return to the Womb Teen – Getting overwhelmed and falling apart. ‘Senioritis’ or senior meltdown can cause paralysis or avoidance.

Flights into Adulthood Teen – I loved Mike’s description: “Just to keep parents confused, teens will exhibit times of great analytical thinking and action, mature assumption of responsibility, collaborative problem solving, and ethical decision making!” But do not let that fool you, they still need you and can easily go from one state to another.

Unfortunately for the parent, as if all of this ‘confusion’ on the part of your child wasn’t enough, your own changing role and identity as a parent is permanently changing too.  Remember that the basis of a healthy relationship is communicating that you care about your student. The relationship needs to be based on their thoughts and feelings – and your interest and acknowledgment of them – not just on their actions. As you get closer to that acceptance letter you both will feel a sense of accomplishment.

Happy Summer!

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