The Boomerang Teen Part 2Posted: February 4, 2014
I said I would return with suggestions to avoid having your teen flop back into the house for an extended stay in the middle of a semester. I make no guarantees, sometimes a one-way ticket home is inevitable and necessary, but here are some thoughts on how to prepare for a successful flight out of the nest.
I love the idea of sleep away camp. Any reader that has spotted one of my summer posts is aware of my proclivity towards all things camp. I have promoted camp for infinite reasons (friendship, bonding, summer structure etc.) and one of the biggest reasons is for kids to get a taste of being away from home. There are many kinds of camps that can meet this objective; sports camps, Scout camps, academic camps and arts camps and they vary in length from a few days to an entire summer.
Camps provide a sense of independence for kids with the safety net of responsible adults who are not their parents to guide them. At camp kids learn to manage their own clothes, toiletries and meals without mom and dad micromanaging all the details. If they miss a night of teeth brushing or lose a sock (or hundreds), it is all part of the process of learning to have some independence. I have found that the kids that have spent time away from home for a period of time during their middle and high school years have had the easiest transition to college and have had less risk for the boomerang swing.
When a teen has increased responsibility throughout high school, he will have an easier transition to college. Freshmen start slowly, perhaps getting more opportunities to socialize with peers in groups before they are juniors and driving independently. Many juniors and seniors obtain part-time jobs which teach them responsibility, time management and a bit about finances. Extra-curricula activities also help a teen with independence; there are clubs with responsibilities, teams with obligations and bands and theater with commitments that the teen must learn to balance with academic and other expectations.
One of my biggest selling points with my clients and their parents is for the kids to become responsible for their own academics. A freshman in high school should manage her own schedule by knowing when she has an exam, when papers are due and the status of her grades. I encourage parents to be supportive and helpful WHEN ASKED, but to allow the student to manage his own work load. The more autonomy a high school student has, the more success will occur in college.
Parents often tell me that their teen will fail if the parent lets go of the academic reins. The best advice I ever got was at a back-to-school night when my oldest child’s teacher said “Parents, you have already completed second grade, it is their turn.” Yes, it is their turn; their turn to learn, their turn to succeed and their turn to fail. I constantly stress to these parents that the fall is easier when they fail junior year before they are legal adults and still in high school than when they are half a state or country away, paying thousands of dollars for tuition and suddenly realizing that they don’t know how to manage their work load without mom leading the way. (Students with learning disabilities or attention challenges do require more parental supervision. It is important to strike a balance between over-doing and supporting the student; not an easy task for many families).
My last thought is to address mental health issues if and when they present themselves. If a child is predisposed to anxiety or depression and has struggled throughout her adolescence with symptoms of sadness, feeling overwhelmed or anger management issues, please GET HER HELP. Sending a child off to college who is struggling emotionally can be a set-up for failure. College is inherently stressful with its huge life transitions and rigorous academics. If your teen seems to be struggling, getting him the help he needs before he leaves home can arm him with the extra tools he may need to have a successful college experience.
Again, sometimes things happen. Unplanned trauma, anxiety or homesickness can occur; kids come home and it is okay. There is always another path and other options, so don’t fret.
One last thought, have your kids learn to do their own laundry……if nothing else it will make for a more pleasant aromatic experience for the roommate.