Life's Big Questions: How Will I Make it Through My Kid's Senior Year?
Having recently watched several fellow parents ride the roller coaster that is a kid's senior year of high school, I believe we could all use some guidance as to how to make the most of that experience.
Between riding their kids to make sure essays were written and application deadlines met, accommodating their offspring's accelerated social lives while keeping the family intact, and coming to terms with their children's inevitable move away from the family and toward independence, most of my friends found the whole thing both draining and exhilarating.
Those kids are now safely ensconced in colleges -- not necessarily their No. 1 dream choices, but good schools nonetheless -- and their parents are shaking their heads, wondering where the time went and, in some cases, what the big fuss was about.
I figured I'd interview a few experts and get advice as to how to make it through your kid's senior year with a minimum of conflict, tension, and emotional drama and a maximum of, well, pleasure in each other's company and accomplishments. But while there are tons of resources offering guidance to parents of students in their first year of college, I found surprising little information about managing aspects of senior year other than the college application process. I did get to talk with Rachel Korn, editor of How to Survive Getting Into College, published by Hundreds of Heads Books, Inc. Hundreds of Heads also runs a terrific advice Web site. Among oodles of other useful options offered there, kids in their senior year can register at www.hundredsofheads.com to receive free weekly tips about surviving senior year.
Korn shared these tips:
* Don't be a nag. When it comes to the college application ordeal, "Resist the urge to check in at every single meal. Your child is already completely freaked out, even if they don't say anything. Try not to put your anxiety on them."
* Curb your competitive spirit: Keeping a lid on anxiety gets harder as the year goes on and you start to recognize which kids are your kid's direct competition. "That can breed parental competition," Korn says. "Try to take yourself out of that as much as possible."
* Spurn slacking: Don't let your kid slack off schoolwork or skip classes second semester. "That could accidentally start a bit of a habit," Korn says. "The best kind of parents arm their kid with tools to succeed in life. Letting this start to slip is sending a bad message."
* Get in the game: Attend as many college-admissions workshops and information sessions as you can. "The more information you have, you can feel a bit more calm. Without information, the process seems mysterious" and anxiety-producing.
* Pencil it in: Depending on how much structure and guidance your kid needs, help him or her develop a calendar showing the dates things are due and, by tracking back, when your kid needs to start working on whatever's coming due. "You could get a really big wall calendar and post those dates there," Korn advises. That allows you to "gently keep him on track without being right on top of him."
* Get your fair share: To balance your desire to spend some time with your child before she leaves for school with her need to hang with her friends, try making some compromises. "Say 'I want you to enjoy your friends, but if you go here or there with them, I would like you to join us for such and such, too,'" Korn suggests.
* Be there: Make a special effort to be involved in your kid's activities this last year. "Show up for every game and every performance," Korn recommends. "Be sure to support your kid a little extra."
Now's your turn to be the expert. College-kid parents, what advice do you have for parents whose kids have just started 12th grade? And you folks with younger kids, are you looking forward to senior year? Have you started to panic yet?
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