Well, we’re now full-blown in the holiday season again (didn’t we just do this a few months ago?) and if you are the parent of a high schooler applying to college, you probably aren’t singing songs of joy and peace right about now. Chances are, your child is having the usual teenage mood swings and rebellion compounded by all the additional stress of applying to college and the ultimate fear/Nirvana: leaving you for college come fall. If your home is peaceful, please write and tell the rest of us how you’ve managed that. If you are typical, though, you probably need a breather from the increasing tension.
I know a lot about such things because I’ve been through that minefield. And if you think it’s hard to parent a 17 year old, wait until you have to parent a 20-something, which is where I am now. 24 is the new 17. Yikes! So here’s my holiday gift to you…
My surefire recipe for creating peace at home in stressful times
Step 1. Lock yourself in the bathroom and breathe. Breathing is very under-rated. It calms the nervous system and slows the heart. The goal is to get centered in what is happening around you and how you feel about it. In other words, locking yourself in the bathroom gives you some distance, and distance is good when your nerves are frayed and you are about to say or do something stupid that you’ll later regret.
Step 2. Accept the fact that you are not applying to college. Your child is. This is not your firewalk. You don’t have to stay up all night making applications to school. Your academic performance is not about to be judged. You are not about to be accepted or rejected by strangers. It isn’t happening to you, though it sure feels like it. Breathe some more and feel a tiny bit of relief as you meditate on this thought: aren’t you glad you’re not your child?
Step 3. Remember that your role in this college application business is to be your family’s grounding cord. You’ve lived through harrowing times before and have came through them OK. You know that life ebbs and flows, that it brings great times and tough times. That’s what we signed up for when we decided to be human beings. So breathe again and ask yourself how you can ground the rest of your family and create a peaceful home. Breathe in some of that peaceful feeling that you’d like to inject.
Do What Only You Can Do
Step 4. Commit to yourself that you will be unflappable in the coming weeks. You will listen and empathize and go on with your life without trying to fix anything, because you are doing what only you can do – modeling healthy adult behavior during a tough time. You are literally showing your child how it’s done. Matching their own anxiety doesn’t help them. It just makes everything worse.
Step 5. If you want to clear your anxiety and frayed nerves, there is nothing like tapping (EFT). Here is a great script for that. If not, there are many other ways to stay calm in the center of a Category 5 storm: breathing; meditation; reading; going for a walk; talking to a friend or a “paid friend”. Remember what flight attendants tell us upon boarding a plane: place your own oxygen mask on before helping others. Your child needs you to stay strong and relaxed now. Your family needs you to create peace. And you need to enjoy the holidays.