If you are the lucky parent of a high school senior, then the title of this article probably caught your eye. Yep, senior year is a tough year for the teens AND for their parents. Furthermore, high school seniors and their parents are, more often than not, unclear about what a parent’s role should be. I can almost picture thousands of parents of seniors out there scratching their collective heads and just praying for this emotional roller coaster of a year to be over and done with. Unless you are the parent of a child who got into their top choice school using the early decision process, then you are most likely among the multitude of parents who are trying to deal with an emotional vortex fraught with anxiety and stress.
Maybe your teen got rejected from his/her top choice college and is feeling really down. What should you as a parent do? First, take a breath, have a seat and listen carefully to my thoughts and follow my instructions:
1) Listen to what your child has to say. Validate her feelings of disappointment.
2) Do not add to his or her high stress level by expressing your own anger, anxiety and whatever other feelings are swelling up in your head and heart. Now is not the time for emotional catharsis. Nor is emotionally unloading the right thing to do with your disappointed kid.
3) Tell your child that where she goes to college does not define who she is as a person. Nor does where she ends up going to college determine her overall life happiness. As Karen Gross, former president of Southern Vermont College recently wrote “There are many colleges that can enable student success”. All colleges provide a plethora of opportunities and resources.
4) Remain as upbeat as possible. Mood is as contagious as a virus. Remind your teen that other choices are likely available.
5) Do something unexpected and counter-intuitive like celebrating the rejection. I’m not losing it. We all benefit from having a little fun. Don’t we?
6) Suggest to your child that the rejection may actually be a blessing in disguise. Maybe the school was a bad fit and he would have been miserable there. Maybe the rejection is actually a favor. I know that this may or may not go over well, but it sure is worth a try because it might be true.
7) In a very clear and supportive way tell your child that the rejection is NOT the end of the world. It may seem that way but in four years, this particular rejection will just be a blurry memory. I have never had anyone come to therapy in their 20’s because they didn’t get into their top choice college. Nope, this has never happened in three decades of working with hundreds of young adults.
8) Encourage your child to take a break, stop thinking about college for a day or two and decompress. Everyone benefits from decompression time.
9) Maybe their friend got into this college. Encourage your daughter or son to politely congratulate the friend. Envy is never healthy and will just reinforce your child’s belief that he is undeserving.
10) Praise your teen’s college application efforts, despite the disappointment and temporary setback. After all, life as we know it will go on.
Good luck moms and dads. Keep in mind that this year too shall pass!
Reprinted with permission from Barbara Greenberg, a clinical psychologist specializing in the treatment of children, teens and parents. Dr. Greenberg frequently appears on national TV including shows such as ABC Good Morning America, Nightline and CNN. You can visit her website at http://drbarbaragreenberg.com or follow her on Twitter: @parentteendr .