Another cycle of college admissions has begun and I’m so struck by the deep fear of students and their parents in the runup to the application deadlines. I offer the usual excellent advice (take it slow, one step at a time, get lots of sleep) but see how often it goes in one ear and straight out the other. Yeah, no kidding. I get it. I’ve been plenty scared in life myself.
So I’ve hit on an important concept I want to encourage you to use as your child is in the throes of applying to college. I call it ‘first aid’ to stop the hemorrhaging of confidence that is inevitable this time of year.
I encourage you to amp up your esteeming of your child.
You might feel resistance at first. One parent rolled her eyes when I gave her this advice and said, “Oh brother. Aren’t they esteemed enough?” Made me smile. But here’s the thing…actually, no. They aren’t esteemed enough right now.
You can’t possibly understand the scary nature of your child’s world during this moment in time.
They are expected to master the most rigorous curriculum ever offered in the US (thanks to confluence of the knowledge explosion afforded by the internet and the accountability movement of No Child Left Behind). They are expected to provide evidence of leadership sustained over time for college admissions officers who are partial to that kind of person. These same admissions officers expect to see full-blown, highly-perfected humans among their applicant pool of teenagers who, for the most part, are far from it. Students hear snippits of information about admissions that scare them and then, like all people, they connect the dots and make stuff up about how college admissions works. Except that it doesn’t work that way and they are working off of bad information. They are connected to each other 24/7 through technology in ways we aren’t. Social media sucks them into mob mentality. As teenagers, they want to fit in and be accepted for who they are all the while they have yet to grow into social confidence, like puppies who are growing into their paws. They have pimples and body issues as they transform into adults. Their hormones are fluctuating, causing moodiness and angst and a general sense of careening out of control. They are trying to please everyone and to be seen as special when they really don’t feel special at all.
In short, teenagers aren’t finished yet.
So I am urging parents to offer your children ballast. Be extra gentle with them now. Praise them for what they do right and bite your tongue when they screw up. Ease up a bit. Love them, even if you have to take out their baby pictures to remind yourself how perfect they were then because as teenagers they are sometimes a pain in the butt. 😉
This is their initiation into adulthood. It is hard to put years of your life on the line to be judged by strangers using rules you will never understand in such a public way. We adults have never been where they are because our world was so much safer.
Amp up the esteeming and you will see how they relax back into you. It will change everything.