Battle Lines During College Prep

battle lines

As any parent will tell you, stress, teens and college prep go hand in hand. Add that to anxiousness, frustration and over-commitment and you have a recipe for disaster at home. Tempers rise and everyone’s emotions are volatile. If you’ve learned anything over the course of their childhood, it’s how to pick your battles—letting the unimportant matters slide to focus on the more important ones. During college prep, especially, the battle lines may be drawn.

Here are just a few battles I faced with my teenagers:

Clothing disagreements

The conversation goes like this:

Me: Are you really going to wear that?

Daughter: What’s wrong with it?

Me: You’re showing too much cleavage.

Daughter: You never like what I wear! Everyone is wearing these kinds of tops.

Let’s face it. We rarely like what they wear. That’s part of being a teenager (the clothing rebellion). Perhaps a better way to avoid this battle and prepare them for choosing the appropriate clothing in college is to suggest alternatives. Or, you could just ignore the topic altogether and pray no one notices. (Denial…a not so good parenting tactic!)

The inevitable battle over cellphone usage

The conversation goes like this:

Me: Do you really have to have that phone in your hand 24/7?

Son: Yes. I don’t see what the problem is.

Me: Put the phone down and have a conversation for a change.

Son: Why would I do that?

Today’s teens are tech addicts. Most parents simply don’t understand why they have to text about everything instead of picking up the phone. It baffles most of us that they will text to one another in the same room. But they do.

What works for me? Set aside time (usually dinner) when everyone is gadget free. That means YOU have to comply—if you’re honest with yourself, you won’t like it much either.

The organization debacle

The conversation goes like this:

Me: Did you follow up and email the college rep you talked to at the college fair?

Daughter: What college rep?

Me: The one from your first choice college.

Daughter: Oh. No. I haven’t done that yet. I’ll get to it later.

Procrastination—a teenager’s favorite technique for avoidance. If procrastination is their favorite technique, then tomorrow is their favorite word. Parents detest hearing that word from their kids, especially when it comes to the application process. What’s a parent to do? You can leave them to their own devises or you can be smart and find ways to help them stay organized. Beat them at their own game: text and email them reminders. If you’re sneaky, you can even add them to the calendar alerts on their smartphone or laptop. Hey, whatever works.

College visits gone awry

The conversation goes something like this:

Me: Don’t you think you should at least get out of the car.

Son: No. I’m not feeling it.

Me: We’ve come all this way. You can at least get out and walk around.

Son: You can if you want, but I’ll just stay in the car.

Believe it or not, this happens more than you think. My daughter didn’t even want to apply to colleges because the buildings were “icky”. These types of comments can drive a parent nuts. We’re all about making logical decisions. They are all about bordering on the irrational. It’s best to move on when this happens because it’s impossible to drag a 6 foot boy out of the back seat of the car.

Emotional college choices

Expect this conversation:

Me: Why do you want to go to that college.

Daughter: Because my boyfriend is applying there.

Me: That’s not a very good reason. What if you break up?

Daughter: (bursts into tears) Break up? Of course, that’s what you want. You’ve never liked him!

Expect your son or daughter to apply to colleges based on what might seem illogical reasons to you. They will inevitably make choices because of peer pressure, friend pressure and even boyfriend/girlfriend pressure. Your best bet is to steer them away from these choices and help them see the long-term goal. If you’re successful (and a little bit lucky), the college they choose won’t be the #1 party school. Then again, all colleges are party schools.

Be cautious about drawing those battle lines

What am I saying? Pick your battles. The college prep process is going to be stressful and a turning point in your student’s life and in yours as well. If you choose to be the parent who is screeching about every little thing, you will miss some of the best shared moments in your teenager’s life.

The college admissions process, if done wisely, can serve to cement the parent/child bond when you share this experience. Take advantage of the opportunity and don’t be so serious. If you’re lucky your student will emerge victorious, and you will breathe a sigh of relief that you have survived yet another milestone in your child’s life. At the very least you will have some stories to share at amateur night at a comedy club.

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