Many of you have a student who is a high school senior getting ready to head to college. Others have a student who is preparing to leave college for the workforce or graduate school. And some of you may even have both! It can be hard to help our young adults navigate transition, especially when the world itself is constantly changing. Whether your student is going from high school to college or college to the “real world”, we found there to be similarities in what they are experiencing. We thought it could be helpful to hear from a couple of our staff who have either been through or are currently going through this transition. We hope you find some of our thoughts helpful as you walk alongside your student.
If this is your first child to go off to college, how are most parents feeling right now?
Shonn: To all the other parents out there right now in this situation – I’m with you… times three! My 18-year old triplets are all coming to Hope this fall. We don’t have any other kids, so we haven’t been through this before. But I can share a little bit about how we are feeling, and maybe you are feeling the same way.
While we consciously know our kids will be off on their own, I don’t think the reality has hit yet. Our kids are wrapping up their final commitments for high school, working part-time, etc. So we haven’t had a taste of what it’s going to be like to miss them yet. At the same time, we can tell they are ready for independence. This “readiness” can show up in the form of arguments and other stubborn behaviors. So we are feeling a mix of emotions. Sending them off to Hope will relieve tensions, but we know we will miss them a lot and want to cherish our time together this summer.
What is it like transitioning your student to a new setting/living arrangements?
Amy: I very distinctly remember what it felt like moving our youngest 500 miles from home! I also remember every moment of packing her up, moving her home temporarily, and then to her new apartment 2.5 hrs away…SO much transition and no road map to follow! No one can prepare you for how YOU will feel in these moments. I tried to be the cool helpful mom and in hindsight, I think it would have been better if our daughter saw me being not so “perfect”. It is tough to know how much to share and when it is better to cry for two hours in the car driving away from campus. My best advice is to accept what you are feeling and maybe err on the side of less emotion in front of your child so they know it’s o.k. to let you go and transition successfully. As for transitioning into the “real world”, I tried to take some of my own advice. I shared a bit more with our daughter and let myself be a little more human. The nice part was that she did, and still does, value my opinion around new life decisions and reaches out for advice. If you have not heard of motivational interviewing I encourage you to look it up. Asking questions vs starting with advice works well with your kids in general, and especially as they transition to college or whatever awaits them after college. Asking questions allows them to reach good decisions on their own AND feel supported.
How soon does my student need to know what they want to major in?
Shonn: They have time. Ideally students will be ready to make that decision during their second year of college. My triplets are all in different places on this one… one kid has a pretty sure idea, one kid has two or three things he is interested in, and one is undecided. The great thing about Hope is that we meet students wherever they are at.
Before I started working at Hope, I was a lot more anxious about making sure my kids had solid career direction when they were young. But I’ve changed my perspective. High school seniors these days are constantly being asked about plans for their lives, and yet their awareness is limited. The Boerigter Center for Calling and Career has multiple assessments, resources, and advisors that can help your student find the alignment of their strengths and interests. In addition, we strongly encourage job shadowing and informational interviewing with alumni to learn about possible careers. College is an excellent time to discern career options, and Hope is an excellent place to do it.
How do you help your student manage their workload/management of time within these transition times?
Amy: Our youngest is a real go-getter so we never worried about her spending enough time on school but more making sure she wasn’t taking on too much and maintaining good balance. I realized early on that this drive could be her downfall. I learned that when she felt she was failing it really meant she was getting a B/C in a class, which for the record, “B’s and C’s get degrees”; and jobs! She rarely got so overwhelmed that she “crashed” but I learned that it happened a bit more for her in college because I wasn’t there saying no to things. What really worked early on was for me to immediately ask “what can I take off your plate/help with?” We transitioned then to “what can I give you permission to take off your plate?” Finally coming to “what do you know you need to take off your plate?” I leaned into the first two the most early on in college but then gradually shifted to more of the 2nd and 3rd questions, helping her make the transition from needing me to being able to navigate challenges more independently. This insight was truly a God moment as it was so helpful! We still do this dance together and I believe it helped her so much as she transitioned post college and tackled a new set of big decisions
We hope you find these learned lessons and reflections helpful. Transitions are challenging, especially now when they are coming daily. As parents we do our best to guide and support and have to trust that others will also help them along the way. At Hope, we use our village, our community, to help your student discern their path. It is a privilege to be a part of their lives! The Boerigter Center is here for them as they navigate major, career, and life decisions.