The first year of college is similar to the first year of life. The developmental tasks of the infant and the college freshman are similar in several ways: both will leave the comfort of their homes to live on their own. Neural growth, connectivity and neural reduction will occur respectively in an infants and an eighteen year old's brain. In order to successfully respond to new enviormental demands and stresses adaptability and flexibility are required by both. However, there is one major difference; you will not be going with them!
Childhood offers many opportunities for both parents and children to practice separation and individuation. With each successful milestone a child develops a deeper level of confidence and independence. In turn parents feel reassured that their children are developing the necessary skills to become self reliant. This alone may not be enough for some adolescents to be able to make the successful transition to college. How can you tell if your child is at risk and what steps can be taken to ensure a successful transition?
Children who received educational or psychological services throughout high school are at risk. In addition, children with poor organizational skills, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, anxiety disorders, mood disorders such as depression or drug and alcohol abuse. Often these students have functioned in high school with academic support and parental guidance, but if enrolled in a college without sufficient academic support and structure, the results could be disappointing. Failing grades, unanswered phone calls, isolation, changes in behavior, reluctance to discuss grades, use of alcohol and drugs should be red flags to parents that danger is ahead.
Parents may feel surprised when they find out their child is having difficulty transitioning into college. Parents who were once privy to information from high school principals and teachers no longer have that opportunity in college. Parents may respond by feeling anxious, angry, disappointed, guilty and resentful. Your child may also experience feelings of self-doubt, guilt, and disappointment or even apathy and detachment. Many families could avoid financial hardships and emotional turmoil by taking an “honest look” at the needs of their child and their concerns as parents.
What steps should a parent and child take to prepare for a successful transition?
1. Prepare children to be their own educational advocate. They need to know: the names and nature of their disabilities, the federal and state statutes that protect people with disabilities from discrimination and be capable of speaking to professors and administrators about their concerns and needs.
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