Tips to smoothly launch your teen
Laura Kastner and Jenny Wyatt, authors of "The Launching Years: Strategies for Parenting from Senior Year to College Life," offer these tips:
• Focus on helping your child find the most appropriate college for his interests and personality, rather than the "best" one.
• Limit yourself to secretarial tasks related to college applications. "Most of us have been so involved in our child's life it's almost impossible to do nothing," Wyatt said. "But discipline yourself to say, 'I'm going to let my child make the choices, fill out the applications and be in charge.' "
• While 65 percent of graduating seniors go on to college, nearly a third don't. "All our children can be successful if they're well-adjusted and have support," Kastner said. "You look at optimal development, not just college."
• Keep send-offs small and simple. "Do something that's characteristic of how you have related to your child, what you tend to do together that's fun," Wyatt advised. While parents see this as an end of an era, students are busy worrying about the details of everything that's beginning.
• Don't try to cover every concern in one lecture, but at the same time, don't think it's futile to address tough topics. As Kastner notes, "They will roll their eyes, sometimes tease, sometimes balk, but in the end, in surveys, even college students always say, 'I'm glad my parents talked to me. If anything, I think they should have talked to me more.' "
• Don't over-romanticize this time period. "If a parent is continually saying, 'These are the best years of your life,' when the student hits the skids and the best time has a lot of difficulties, the child almost feels like they've done something wrong to have these problems," Kastner said.
• Agree ahead of time about how and when students will share information about academic progress. The Family Education and Privacy Act of 1974 requires colleges to have the student's permission to share grades. Some colleges take that step; others don't.
"I have counseled many parents who were absolutely floored when their child all of a sudden announced they were on probation," Kastner said. "Parents shouldn't be the last ones to hear because they can be the first ones to help."
• Some ways of dealing with "dump" phone calls from freshmen: Don't be offended when they reject your reassurances (even if they're convinced nothing will help, they'll probably feel better anyway). Don't overreact; instead, remain calm and positive.
• Remember the goal is your child's financial independence. "Then you can get through some of the tougher moments of having to say 'no,' " Wyatt said.
• Don't think parenting is over. "You're going to be pulled back into parenting when, say, there is that fraternity vandalism incident," Wyatt said. "So you need to be ready for those moments."
• Don't overemphasize the grief and loss. "The good news and bad news is that parenting continues for many years," Kastner said. "It's so gratifying to watch students evolve and become competent adults. We get to share in their journey and that's something I don't hear parents anticipating enough."