Hanukkah starts tonight, Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and Christmas is less than a month away. The holiday season is stressful for many people, but that stress is magnified for high school seniors who are trying to finish their college applications. Those who applied early are, at the same time, anxiously awaiting their admissions decisions, most of which will be released in mid-December.
So what can you, as a parent, do to help ease your child’s stress? First, keep in mind that everyone deals with stress differently. Exercising, writing in a journal, taking a bubble bath, or talking with people you’re close to all are common ways of coping with stress. However, some teens may have more unique ways of managing stress. As long as their preferred method doesn’t hurt themselves, other people/animals, or property, my advice is to let them do it. Assuming their approach is productive and healthy, dealing with stress is far better than letting it bottle up inside. So encourage your child to set aside time to do whatever it is she or he does to cope with stress.
Students also may engage in unusual or superstitious behavior. For example, since mid-October, one of my students has been wearing a paper wristband that she got during a visit to the college where she applied early decision. She doesn’t plan to take it off until admissions decisions are released on December 15. So, if your kid wants to sleep with a school’s brochure under her pillow, or if he wants to wear a college’s t-shirt everyday, I say, why not? Again, as long as your teen’s actions aren’t hurting anyone, what’s the harm?
Now, here’s a suggestion that surely will be difficult for many parents to follow: try to keep your comments and questions about college to a minimum. I know you want to make sure your child gets everything finished in time, and perhaps your confidence in his ability to do so is minimal, but nagging does not help. In all my years of working with students, one of the most frequent complaints I’ve heard is that parents are adding to students’ stress by constantly asking about students’ choices, their progress on their applications, and anything else that’s college-related.
My advice, which I’ve given to numerous parents, is this: with your child, pick one day a week for a college check-in, and for the rest of the week, don’t mention the topic. If your kid brings it up, then it’s fair game. But minimizing your discussions about college will make your child’s life, and your own, much more pleasant. And you all will enjoy the holiday season much more.