David Pennington
by David Pennington
Posted July 17, 2019

They grow up so fast, don’t they? I want to take a moment to remind you that your child is a fully-autonomous human being who will eventually grow up to have a great life doing something they love.

As a parent, what would you do for the chance to get to know your child better? Who they are as a person, the aspirations they have, the things they are really good at? Today, there has never been more pressure to have our children be successful in life. Schools define students with standardized testing, curriculums are increasingly challenging, and the best opportunities for your kids feel like they are harder to come by.

Then we talk about college! SAT scores, the right extracurricular activities, coaching, tutoring, entrance essays, interviews…the list goes on. Through it all, they live with this idea that every wrong move they make might cost them their future, or that there is a “permanent record” they need to be concerned about.

As they approach the end of their high school careers and embark on a college education, it might be best to let a few things go. Let them know there is no permanent record (except for Instagram – make sure they know that stuff is never actually deleted). Rest assured, you are both anxious about what they are going to do “with the rest of their life.”

Take a chance and change the conversation. Away from test scores and entrance exams and towards who they are, what they like to do, and what they would like to do.

In other words – maybe get to know who your kid really is?

As they stand at the entrance to adulthood, one of the best opportunities to do this might be during the college tour road trip. Between their dream school and their safety net campuses, there is likely a few hundred miles the two of you can use to let them be who they really are.

Let them drive for a bit.

Your insurance premiums may suggest otherwise, but your kid is ready to be in the driver’s seat. How do you let them take control and find new boundaries to cross? Why not hand them the keys and see what happens?

See the campus, but see the sights.

The goal of most campus tours is to sell you, the parents, on the campus. The investments they make in the facilities they build – how significant the dining halls are or how nice the dorms might be. When it comes to the everyday experience of living on campus or attending school in a new town, make sure you check out what is just off campus. See what other facilities, venues, and options are available.

Just off campus, you’re likely to find students who have been studying at the university for a few years. Ask them what life there is really like. Additionally, see what your child is drawn to both on and off campus. You might surprise yourself what interests they take to when given the opportunity.

Remember: self-expression is not a waste of time. This is the chance to discover who they really are. Laziness and idleness are not time wasters either. What you do in your downtime says a lot about who you are.

Stop being a parent for just a little while.

You will always be their mom or dad, that never changes. They will likely keep calling on you for support when things get tough, or they are treading water in uncharted territories. Sometimes, though, they might need someone with experience to talk to who isn’t their parent. Setting the stage to listen to their concerns without risking judgment is an essential part of letting them develop into the people they were meant to be.

You might discover they are afraid of something you face effortlessly, or that they are interested in a world that you never even considered. If you want to help them be a complete person, take the time to let your guard down, pause the parenting, and start the listening.

Depending on where your child is choosing for college, you could be in for a long road trip. There are no shortcuts, the GPS may cut out, and you’ll eventually have to stop for gas and recharge for a bit – not unlike the journey it takes to get to know who your kid really is.

David Pennington

 

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