Since March of 2020 the idea of what college life will be like has become more confusing than ever. For our young adults, will college be just another set of classes to take from their bedrooms? Are they going to be able to go away to college? How are they going to meet college peers? Are they going to be able to live in the dorms with peers or by themselves or not at all? These questions and many others are very real and uncertain since the start of the pandemic. I have been training, educating and counseling teens getting ready to transition into college life for three decades and have never experienced the type and amount of anxiety and confusion our soon to be high school graduates are experiencing. And don’t forget about the stress falling on the parents.
When talking to our high school seniors and juniors, many of them say they are feeling overwhelmed during these unsure times. They are struggling with managing their time, being organized and avoiding procrastination. Some are becoming resistant to help from their teachers, school counselors, parents and even peers and siblings. Resistance and anxiety are up and hopefulness and excitement about going to college are dramatically down.
What are parents to do, to help their children find their motivation?
1. Identify Goals and Desires
Right now, your high school student may not be looking at college as a priority. The more stressed they are about the uncertainty of their future, the less motivated they will be to act to get prepared to go to college. Parents may want to help their child identify their goals and what they were before the pandemic took hold. Have discussion about different school options, what are the choices? Do they want help to apply to colleges and to talk to others who may attend the schools they desire to attend?
2. Help Them be Organized and Avoid Procrastination
If your child has even a little bit of motivation to finish this school year and to go to college next year, help them identify the tasks ahead. If they are resistant to your support, reach out and get professional help. Encourage them to search out colleges of interest, many are offering virtual tours and virtual opportunities to talk with staff at these colleges. If your child is willing, you can even do virtual searches with them, make a game or competition out of it.
Many people of all ages are struggling with managing their time and being organized when working and attending school virtually. Ask them to set-up daily routines and goals, be sure to include fun activities and share your organizational systems with them.
3. Be Supportive, But Not Overpowering
Let your child know that you understand their apprehension and stress. Share the methods you are using to adjust to these uncertain times. Make friendly suggestions of how they can better use their time, instead of hiding behind their “screens”. That does not mean no TikTok, or multi-player video games, but a balanced amount. Remember how you may have been as a child, parents that “push” their kids to much, do not typically get what they are shooting for. Be there for them and give them space.
4. Have Fun
What is it that makes your child smile? What hobbies do they have? What can you all do as a family? By creating routine and structure with all family members stress will usually be decreased. As most of us are spending an enormous amount of time with our families, we want to bring down the stress level for all family members. And don’t forget about our pets, they are family members also and are out of their routine. Lastly, this pandemic will not last forever, let love and kindness prevail and success is much more likely to develop.
Dr. Eric J. Nach, Ph.D., M.Ed., A.S.D.C., is a Developmental and Behavioral Specialist and since 2012 has been the Founder and President of the Support for Students Growth Center in Boca Raton, FL, where they provide social, academic, behavioral and emotional support services online Nationwide and world wide.