This blog was inspired by Brooke Shield's emotional Instagram post after dropping her daughter off at Wake Forest University, which happens to be where my daughter Jordan is going. I was moved by how vulnerable and emotional her video was, and it encouraged me to write some tips to help support parents through this challenging period. Until I got to Wake Forest to drop my daughter off, I didn’t fully understand the undertaking of what was happening and the strong emotions that this would bring.
This made me reflect on my past when I had to leave home when I was only 12 years old to live with another family.
The first thing that I wanted to do when dropping off my daughter was to call my mom and let her know how I felt when I was a child and thank her for allowing me to move away from home, although it must’ve been the most difficult decision that she had to make. Clearly going to a new community to live with a foster family when I was a young girl is not like leaving for college at age 18, but it brought up feelings of sadness, anxiety, and of course excitement about the upcoming future for my daughter.
With some students already starting school and many will start shortly after Labor Day- here are some tips to help you navigate this time:
Tip 1: Just Listen.
This one might sound obvious and simple, but in actuality, it is a very hard thing to implement and practice. If you think about the last conversation that you’ve had with someone and how you listened, what you will most likely find out is that when the other person is talking you are already busy thinking about what it is that you want to say or maybe thinking about any other number of things occupying your thoughts at the same moment. That’s why when I say listen, what I mean is that you have to really listen and pay attention to what the other person is saying. This is actually a very simple yet but extremely helpful tactic that can help the other person tremendously—particularly a teenager.
Tip 2: Validation
One important tactic that I can give any parent, and even the teens and college students I work with, is to first and foremost learn to validate. The concept of validation can be a little bit confusing, and even if you understand the meaning of validation, how to actually do it can be very challenging if you don’t have concrete steps. Learning this important skill will serve you and your loved ones well. Let’s use a very simple example to illustrate how to do it: Your child is telling you that they are very sad that they will not be seeing their friends and not going back to school. Our tendency sometimes is to try to solve the problem and give suggestions as to what our kids or loved ones should be doing. If you were to validate your child in this case, you would say the following, “It makes sense that you feel this way.”
Basically, what this means is that you connect to what the other person is saying by letting them know that you get what they were saying. Whether you agree with them or not doesn’t matter at this point because it is about the other person and making them feel like you get where they are coming from.
Tip 3: Let Your Kids Be the Director of their Own Movie!
As I was sitting at the Wake Forest University Parent welcome event and the experts on the panel were giving advice for new incoming parents, I was filled with excitement about my daughters future and development in this new environment. I was also feeling sad that I will miss her and will not get to experience her wonderful energy and see her on a regular basis. I think that as parents, while it might be extremely challenging to give our kids the space to make their own decisions and to be the director of their own life, it is extremely important to be aware of our tendencies as parents to want to save, protect, and direct our kids in a direction that we think is the best for them. However, if we want to produce independent young adults, it is important to give them the control and to allow them to be the director of their own movie, after all, it is their life. You must be aware of your own tendencies to want to help and take the lead of your child’s life now that they are on their own. Instead of telling them what to do, be curious and ask questions. Give them the stage to direct and produce their own scenes in their life.
Tip 4: Seek Support From a Professional.
As parents and caregivers/friends, we often have the best intentions to help someone, but in some cases. the individual requires additional support by a licensed professional who has the right skills and tools to help and support them. There are various ways for you to get support for your loved ones, and you want to make sure that the person that you are reaching out to has the right qualification and the right personality to work with your child. Finding the right therapist can be extremely challenging and often costly, but if you know what to look for, you can at least find someone who is qualified. Once you have identified the right therapist and verified their license, think about your teen’s personality and whether or not you think that he/she is a good fit. Most importantly, you want someone who you know will care about your teen and has the right attitude.
Of course, it can never hurt to reach out.
If you would like to read more about my journey to recovery, subscribe to my weekly blog at the bottom of this page!
With much love,