Written by Ms. Berman
Dedicated to the students and families of the Senior class of 2012
“My mother says I am the devil child,” an IS Senior recently said to me. “Ask her to call me and I will tell her stories about some truly bad kids,” I responded in a semi-sarcastic tone. This flippant comment from my discouraged student, however, continued to resonate with me long after he had left the room. I find myself wondering why we, as a society, are so set upon recognizing birthdays, graduations, communions, weddings and so forth, and yet we do little to recognize and prepare both young adults and their families for the one of the biggest life transitions of all: breaking away. This processes spans over an entire year, as the student begins applying to, planning for, and ultimately going off to college.
Perhaps we underestimate the emotional drain that the application process places on the student, and all of the close family members involved. When my own children were going through this process, my husband philosophized that it’s an evolutionary necessity for children to get combative enough that we actually want them to move out. Otherwise, he contended, how would we ever let our little darlings go? Thus, as a child’s yearning for greater independence and control escalate, so do the family arguments based around the child’s ever changing wants and needs. This signals that the process of breaking away has begun.
I hear the complaints from both the student and parental points of view. Parents will contact me behind their child’s back (which I always tell them may backfire and encourage honesty when seeking my input), saying that their child has suddenly turned secretive and defiant. The student doesn’t want to listen to the parent’s advice regarding college choices, nor topics for his/her personal statement. A student’s typical rebuttal: “That’s what AVID is for.“ As the parent pushes harder to stay involved in the decision-making process, the student often resists even more.
The student from the same family may come to me, complaining that all of a sudden new restrictions are being placed upon him/her, such as an earlier curfew or fewer opportunities to use the family car. “It’s often about control,” I try to explain. “As you withdraw from your parents, you create suspicion, and it is a normal response for them to try to keep better tabs on you. Share your life with them,” I suggest. “Be the one to initiate doing the things that you used to love doing together. When is the last time that you actually went out and had fun without talking about IB exams, college applications, or career choices?” Most students can’t remember.
No one is at fault for this dilemma. Trying to evaluate the situation from the other person’s point of view and realizing that this is difficult for all the parties involved can sometimes lead to a little more patience. Knowing that most families go through some type of adjustment during this period of time, and merely acknowledging that this is one of life’s most stressful transitions, can help the family members be less reactive to each comment and gesture as they arise. It does not have to be a tumultuous time for both the student and the parents. Focusing upon strategies that will create more successful ways to “break-away together” can make all the difference.