Many parents of college students are eager to help them study better, get top grades, and have a fulfilling college experience. So here is a little open later from a graduated student to you, parents, with some do’s and don’t’s you may not realize!
We appreciate the concern
I know we often come angry, annoyed and ungrateful, and without doubt, there are times when we snap at you. You may think we don’t care, but truth is, we wouldn’t be getting as angry or react as strongly if we didn’t care what you thought of us. As I mentioned in my last post, many of my own achievements and successes were motivated by my parents pushing me to strive for more. It was hard, it made me anxious at times, and it definitely made me angry at them on more than one occasion… but it made me who I am today. And for that, I am grateful. However, keep in mind that…
You may need to wait for the “Thank You” card
It’s hard to see clearly when you’re in the heat of the moment, between trying to build a new college social life, stressing over grades, and still growing up! Being able to understand the reasons behind your pressure and your concerns often takes time and perspective we may not yet have at the moment. So please remember we are still learning about life, dealing with every-day college struggles, and developing a much needed perspective. It may take some time down the road to fully understand and appreciate what you are doing for us. It wasn’t until after I finished my masters degree that I fully realized that many of my successes were, directly and indirectly, thanks to my parents. But, while we do (or one day will) appreciate your concerns…
Give us some space
It’s often (understandably) hard for parents to “let go” and see their kids wander off on their own as they enter college. But it’s not only something we want, it’s something that is essential for our well being and development of life-skills. I won’t lie, when I was picking a college, my first requirement was “must be in a different state than my parents.” After 18 years of living with them, I really wanted a break, and a taste of independence. Looking back, I am glad my parents let me spend the summers by myself in LA, learning how to be independent and how to deal with adult problems such as managing my own expenses, finding housing, or filing taxes. It was hard, but fulfilling, and gave me a whole new set of skills that merely academic education doesn’t provide. So while you may feel worried when we don’t call for a few days, know that we are not abandoning you, nor are you being an uncaring parent. You are giving us the necessary freedom to experience real life, and transition to becoming independent and self-sufficient adults.
Our little college problems may be silly to you, but they are real to us
The girl who turned us down, the party we were not invited to, or the terrible cafeteria food – sure in the long run they’re just petty grievances, and the education and grades are more important. But in the moment, those problems feel real to us, and how we cope with them, both literally and emotionally, will help us prepare to cope with bigger problems later on in life. So while you roll your eyes next time as we complain about having to bike an extra mile to the classroom, think of the times you complain about your work commute. Even if our situation is much easier, we both share the same feelings inside, the same frustrations. You don’t necessarily need to “fix” those little issues for us or pander to all our needs, but sometimes laying off the “harden up and focus on your studies!” attitude can be a nice change of pace.
Pressure is good….
And lastly, no child will ever admit this, but the pressure you put on us is good. As I said before, it’s oftentimes what drives us forward, what gives us a goal and a metric, and what pushes us to get that slightly better grade. In the back of our minds, even if we ourselves don’t realize it, trying to make you proud is one of the greatest motivators. That being said…
… but not too much pressure!
Also understand that sometimes you may be pushing us a little too hard, and in the end, our success does come at a price. There is a fine line between a student who succeeds thanks to confidence, and one who succeeds thanks to endless anxiety. And such anxiety can quickly spill out from just the classroom and into our daily lives. There were times when I went out with friends, or watched a movie, and did not enjoy a second of it because I was too worried about my last (or next) test. Sure, it’s good to keep focus on the academics, but our brains need a break, time to unwind, time to relax. With too much pressure and anxiety, we are losing that precious recovery time (click here to read a bit more about that). So while on the surface our grades are showing we’re doing great, on the inside, we may be struggling. So keep that in mind and always be mindful of our limits. After all, I can guarantee that those of us who want to get good grades to make you happy and see your satisfaction will be able to work harder for longer, than those who get good grades because they are afraid of you and fear your disapproval!