7 Tips for Surviving Those Last Few Months Before College

7 Tips for Surviving Those Last Few Months Before College

Senior year can bring out the worst in both parents and teens! Here’s how to cope.

By Betsy Voreacos

Standardized test scores are in. Applications have been sent and acceptance letters joyously received. College choices have been made. All that’s left is prom and pranks and graduation. The rest of the year is going to be filled with lots of old-fashioned, carefree fun for your high school senior!

If you think that scenario is how life will be, you’ve got another think coming.

Senior year can be one of the most stressful times in a teenager’s life. This, in turn, makes it one of the most stressful times in a parent’s life. Except for the few who applied early decision, most kids spend almost half the year waiting and wondering where they’ll be going to college. And once they’ve been accepted (or rejected) and have made their choice, they are filled with feelings ranging from uncertainty to elation to downright fear. After all, for better or worse, their lives are about to be turned upside down.

It’s an exciting time, but it’s nerve-wracking as well. And unsettled times can result in unsettling behavior. Whether it’s escalated eye rolls, unpleasant exchanges, or blatant disregard for rules, we can all use some tips for getting through it unscathed. Or at least, unscarred.

1. Don’t overreact to your child’s overreaction. When your teen doesn’t get into her dream college and she swears (loudly) that her life is ruined (because you didn’t help her write her essay, didn’t feed her breakfast the morning of SATs or didn’t let her fly across country for the optional one-on-one-interview), don’t let her tears and fears bring out the beast in you. Let her blame you. Understand that she’s upset and may say all kinds of awful things she doesn’t really mean. It’s your job to hug her (if she lets you) and remind her that there’s no right or wrong school – just a different path. The worst possible thing to do is engage in spiteful back-and-forth banter.

2. Don’t underreact to your child’s underreaction. By the same token, if your child doesn’t get into his dream college and he shrugs his shoulders and says he didn’t want to go to that stupid school anyway, don’t for a minute believe him. Let him process his rejection and then talk to him. Tell him how you felt when you didn’t get a promotion, a spot on the roster, or picked for a sorority. And then, tell him about the good things that happened as a result of not getting what you thought you wanted. He might not want to talk, but he just may listen.

More from P&G everyday: 5 Conversations About College to Have With Your High Schooler Now

3. Pick your battles. She will push your boundaries. Push your buttons. And push you right into a place you don’t want to be. Before you blow your stack, think for a minute about why your child has turned into an evil version of her angelic self. Whether conscious or not, she has all kinds of conflicting emotions roiling through her not-fully developed brain. Just remember, you’ll both lose if you try to fight every battle. And there will be a lot of them.

4. Relax the rules. In a couple of months, none of your rules are going to matter anyway. Your child will have to navigate the big, wide world on his own and the last thing he’s going to think about is his high-school curfew. Consider relaxing the rules and giving him a little more freedom to make his own choices. An unexpected “yes” goes a long way in letting him know you love and trust him, as well as helping him learn to make responsible decisions while still under your watchful eye.

5. Keep your thoughts to yourself. If you’re one of those people who thinks out loud, stop. It’s way too easy to transfer anxiety from anxious parent to anxious child. Don’t talk about how much you’re going to miss her. Don’t tell her how much work she’s going to have. Don’t tell her you how you cried yourself to sleep your first night at college. And don’t ever let her know you think she made the wrong college choice. Even if you know she did. (She can always transfer!)

6. Let them do it their own way. It might not be the easy way. It might not be the right way. And it certainly isn’t your way. But, now is the time to let them figure it out for themselves. Whether it’s the senior term paper that hasn’t been researched, the summer job that hasn’t been applied for, the thank you note that hasn’t been written, or the roommate questionnaire that hasn’t been submitted – it’s on them, not you. Excess procrastination seems to come with “senioritis,” but unless it will really affect their future in a detrimental way, back off.

7. Savor the good moments. They may be few and far between, but you will have your good days. Make the most of the time you have together; take advantage of good moods and seize the moment if your son or daughter actually wants to talk. Don’t try to steer the conversation, but go with the flow. You may be surprised where you end up.

Whether you dread the impending departure of your offspring or have been counting the seconds until you’re an empty nester, one thing’s for sure. Your child is no longer a child. He may act like a child. Look like a child. And think like a child. But, it’s time to let him go and let him become the young adult he was meant to be.

And it’s also time to trust that you have done your job. (Unless you haven’t taught him how to do his own laundry yet. In that case, it’s time to buy him a bottle of Tide and show him the ropes!)

How are you handling your teen’s last months before college?

Betsy Voreacos lives with her family a stone’s throw from Manhattan. An overly involved mother of three active children, Betsy has always been acutely aware of her shortcomings as a parent, not to mention those of her children. A freelance writer and blogger, she documents her life in the brutally honest Old Minivans Die Hard.

Image ©iStock.com/NicolasMcComber

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Not Good at all. I hope he gets accepted into a college that's on the other side of the country. LOL !!!

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