Parents should be aware that some of the behaviors and attitudes are "normal." Everyone (adults, too!) experiences some anxiety, confusion, and uncertainty when a major transition lies just ahead (a career change, a separation or divorce, a move to a new home). In order to help your son cope with this anxiety and uncertainty ("Will I get into my desired colleges?" "Can I succeed in college?" "Can I make it on my own?") parents can follow these simple guidelines:
- Don't push: Rather than pressure your son by constant questioning, moralizing, or lecturing, let you son know that you understand how he feels (confused, anxious, scared). Let him know that you are a good listener. Rather than getting pulled into a fight by your son's attitude, tell him that you would like to work on things together with him, that you would like to know about what's bothering him, etc. By beginning to treat your son as an adult in conflict situations, you are giving him good practice in learning alternative, more adult ways to resolve conflicts when he is "on his own" at college.
- Loosen up on imposed rules. Obviously, even seniors need some structure, but many rules and regulation that are appropriate for younger students (curfew, hairstyles, grounding) are not always appropriate for seniors. Again, help your son to become responsible for himself by communication, by care, and by making your concerns known to him, but also by allowing him to make some of his own decisions and living with the consequences. This will again, be invaluable practice for next year when you won't physically be with your son if he leaves St. Louis.
- Finally, if your son is extremely anxious, depressed a lot, or is not responding to your attempts to understand and help him, call his school counselor.