Although the future is uncertain in 2020, college is a certainty for many students and their parents. Before picking schools, have the “This is what we are able to do for you” version of the college talk.
Many parents have left the decision open about where to go to college. Yes, a good fit for the student is vitally important. *Please remember, there’s more than one school that's a good fit.
Yet many discussions do not include restrictions about distance, cost, and other factors. Lack of parameters may work in some families; however, in a great many families it can backfire.
“Sure, apply to the best school you can/the one with the greatest location.” I’ve spoken to many parents who have second thoughts when the acceptance notices come in.
“I would prefer that my kid be within a 4-hour drive of home.” “I never thought he’d get into X University. We really can’t afford it, and if there’s no scholarship money, he’ll be SO disappointed.” “I question whether she’s ready for four years and to live away.”
These are important reasons to consider all of your requirements before they pick their list of schools. The kids will know what their choices are and aren’t, as you thoughtfully decide what is important and necessary for you. A college education may be an expectation for your kids; however, if you’re financing it, be clear about your terms and conditions.
But... No ‘buts’. When the topic comes up, even in middle school, be realistic. You owe it to your kids. Don’t set yourselves and them up for conflict, disappointment and twisting yourself in knots to provide something that’s unrealistic and really not what you want or can do. Preparation is key!
“This is what I/we are able to do.” Be respectful, allow their thoughts. Perhaps there's some wiggle room? A compromise? You'll figure it out. But if this is truly your stand, quietly stick to it.
Will there be an unpleasant reaction from your teen? Maybe or probably, depending on your child. Be as okay as you can be with it. This is a huge shift from the popular culture, from a message they’ve been hearing most of their lives.
The earlier you begin this conversation, the easier it will be on all of you. Preparation, boundaries and clear communication will take you there.
Fern Weis is a certified life coach who learned that caring and good intentions are not enough in parenting. In fact, they are often the problem! Fern supports parents of teens and young adults who are going through difficult situations, including addiction recovery. She helps parents release guilt, end enabling and confidently prepare their children to thrive through life's challenges. Her articles are featured in Thrive Global, Medium, Motherly, The Teen Mentor, and Bergen County Moms.