The Late Teen Years: Meeting the Challenges of College
As teens graduate from high school and enter a new stage in their personal, social, and academic lives, parents continue to play an important, although different, role in their lives. The characteristics that parents have instilled in their children in their formative years – a sense of discipline, ability to face new challenges, and a growing sense of independence – now form the basis on which parents assume a new role – that of consultant. In this position, parents can anticipate situations in which their advice and guidelines would be useful as their teens move on. A general guiding principle is to respect your teen’s independence and be supportive, but at a distance. Let your child know you’re there if needed.
In this issue of the CSC Letter, Dr. Richard Gallagher, Director of the Parenting Institute of the NYU Child Study Center, reviews some major issues involved in helping teens successfully meet the challenges of their college years. He discusses ways in which parents can prepare students to face new tasks: accommodating to the latest phase in the parent/teen interaction, adapting to the demands of a new and diverse environment, establishing new modes of communication, and making important decisions involving friendships, sexual relationships, and exposure to substance abuse. Helping teens develop a realistic balance of work, study, and social lives is also discussed. Dr. Gallagher stresses the importance of life skills such as the ability to delay gratification and to independently identify problems and generate potential solutions, and he presents strategies to strengthen these skills.
Parents can make a difference in their child’s late teen years, just as in other stages of their child’s life. Studies on the impact of parenting practices suggest that effective parents follow four basic principles: 1) Effective parents take actions that establish and maintain a positive relationship with their children. 2) Effective parents balance the positive contacts by providing effective guidance and using appropriate discipline with their children. 3) Effective parents have a good grasp of the challenges that children and teens encounter during a phase of development. 4) Effective parents help their children obtain skills to address the challenges that they will face. From infancy through young adulthood, parents that follow all four principles have children that are better adjusted, happier, and more successful in social, emotional, and learning endeavors.
Thoughtful parents can use these four basic principles to guide their actions at the end of their child’s teen years as well as in earlier stages. As children move on to college, parents can provide assistance even in the face of the typical nervousness, concerns about loneliness and homesickness, and new freedoms and responsibilities. When teens are getting ready to leave home for extended periods of time parents can take steps that will make their experience much more fulfilling and successful.
Let’s address some of the major issues to help you prepare and, in turn, help your child prepare for the college years.
Reprinted with the permission of the NYU Child Study Center. © NYU Child Study Center.
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