Grill Your Veggies, Not Your Teen

For students, Thanksgiving and the upcoming December holidays can be a nice break and a time to relax with family. Gatherings with friends and family are even more special these days as many extended families could not get together in person in recent years.

But for seniors, it can be particularly stressful, as they may have already applied to schools and are waiting to hear – or have not yet applied and have that hanging over them.

Since some students are already starting to hear that they are accepted (or not) to their dream school, it can raise the stress level even higher. Keep that in mind as the relatives assemble in person or on family calls. If the tension level is already high, you may want to ask Uncle Fred ahead of time to leave the subject of college out of his questions for your teen.

It’s important to talk to your child and let them know that it will all work out fine, even if they don’t get into a school(s) that they had their heart set on. Try not to let yourself get too attached either to the idea of a particular school. That will come across to your child and will make it even harder if things do not go their way.

Overall, we need to encourage our kids to work as hard as they can in school, spend time making decisions to apply to schools that are a good fit, and then know that it will all work out for the best.

It may be helpful (when the time is right) to share a story about yourself or another who didn’t get their first choice in buying a house, landing a job, or getting accepted into the school of their choice … but who looked back later, only to realize that their second choice was a better fit.

If your child gets disappointing news, it is good to empathize and let them have a chance to be sad. Then they may need some support to begin feeling good about Plan B. There are numerous great schools that will be a good fit for all of our kids, and it will be easier once your child begins to get excited about the next school on the list.

Most important, our kids should hear loud and clear that a rejection letter is not a commentary on them as a person. It is an opinion based on a paper record of their achievements. As wonderful as we all know our children to be, they simply may not have been what a particular school was looking for in rounding out its class in the coming year. And hopefully everyone is aware of how much more selective some colleges have become in recent years.

This is a good time to let our kids know that we think they are great, no matter where they go to college or whatever they choose to do after high school.

All the best for an enjoyable, healthy, and relaxing break with your family over the holidays this year.

It’s Time to Learn More

October is ADHD and Learning Disabilities Awareness month. That may seem like just another nod to increase awareness, which is good, but I encourage you and your child to take it as an opportunity to learn more and assess whether enough support is being provided.

Many students don’t want to feel different than their peers, or may not know that it is not typical to spend such long hours struggling to get their schoolwork completed. So, they just put their head down and try to plow through. Inevitably, that will catch up with them in lower grades, increased frustration levels, and may contribute to decreased self-esteem and anxiety.

I propose that you use the rest of this month to begin learning more from some of the many resources that are widely available. 

For example, many people are not aware of the emotional dysregulation that often accompanies ADHD. It may be harder for your child to manage their emotions or not react with an outburst when they perceive something to be upsetting. Their response may seem out of proportion. It is helpful to learn more about why that may be happening and what to do to help.

I have been listening to short (10 minutes) talks about ADHD this month and I think you and your family will find them helpful as a place to start:

I especially recommend the talk from Dr Sharon Saline on Managing Frustrations and Big Emotions, recorded on October 13th.

Here are a few other resources:

There are also many great books available, so find what works for you to learn a bit more about areas of challenge for your child. Your entire family will likely benefit!

Review Your Goals Now

It can be a difficult transition to go from the slower-paced days of summer to the ritual of the early alarm clock and looming deadlines. This can be particularly challenging for juniors and seniors, as most students that plan to attend college are well aware that they need to do well in their classes and participate in some activities outside of class.

In my last newsletter, I suggested that you and your child set up a meeting to establish some goals for the school year. I hope that you were able to do that.

Regardless, now that school has been in session for a few weeks, it is time to revisit the goals and adjust them based on what is really happening. Many teachers and college staff have noticed that students have lost academic ground during Covid and that students have also become less resilient, as they have not had as much practice using their coping skills when things get stressful.

If your child is working with a therapist, tutor, academic coach, or checks in with teachers / staff at school, that person(s) should be involved in making these goals. This way, it is not just business as usual to get homework completed – there is a plan to work on the areas that need improving, whether study skills, organization, time management, reading comprehension, or math/writing skills.

Your child may also have goals to be more independent in waking in the morning, making their own appointments, learning how to calm themselves when needed, or initiating more interaction with peers outside of school. These are all areas that will improve somewhat with maturity and time, but may not occur soon enough for success in college without direct intervention during the high school years. 

It is still early in the year and this is a perfect time for a meeting with your child and anyone working on their behalf to update goals based on where your student is at this point. College will be here before you know it and this is the time to build the skills needed to be successful!