Why I Love Having A Adult Relationship With My Sons

 

Let Go

I have two sons in their twenties and often read articles written by parents about the woes of letting go. They often lament about how much they miss their kids after they go off to college and about how sad they are. Consequently, I am often asked by people if I miss my sons. I don’t really miss my sons because I still speak to them on a regular basis and they are still very much a part of my life. In fact, we utilize technology and have them participate in special family dinners via skype or facetime. I like having more time to myself, as well as having extra time with my spouse alone. Plus we make the time to visit each other in person occasionally and I still have one more teenager at home.

Yes, I cried both times my two sons left for college. However, I did not wish that things were not changing and I did not wish that they were still living at home; the tears were of concern. Did I teach them enough to be out on their own? Would the world be kind to them? The tears were also of excitement and relief. I am very fortunate that after lots of research, my sons both found colleges where they would experience great joy and make lifelong friendships just like I did when I went off to college.

Having my sons go off to college was the culmination of a process that started off when they were in middle school and they started making major strides toward independence. I never had an expectation that my sons would stay at home. I knew that I had to start preparing them to be independent and to go out on their own. I had to let go of the dreams that I had for them and begin to help them develop dreams of their own.

There are Benefits to “Letting Go”.

I Have Grown as a Person. Going through the teenage years with my sons and daughter, I have learned to be more patient. Furthermore, Discussions with my young adult sons have helped me become a better listener and have expanded my world view. I have also become more adept at handling chaotic and ever changing situations.

My Sons Have Developed a Great Support System. My sons have chosen great friends that share their interests and values. My sons have also maintained a relationship with their siblings and developed great relationships with teachers, co-workers, and other adults along the way. I can give them advice and help them work through the pros and cons of making certain decisions. However, their friends, siblings, and adult mentors can also give them valuable advice from a different perspective.

The World Is A Better Place. My sons have gone on to do things that I did not imagine. They contribute and give back to the community. My oldest son does cancer research and my middle son is the academic chair at his fraternity. I am so proud of the young adults that they have become.

I am very fortunate to have enjoyed every stage of life for my children from the time that they were infants until now. Of course, there have been challenging times as there will always be from time to time. However, each stage of life is different and special in its own way. I look forward to what the future brings.

Miriam Phillips-Gill is the founder of Pathways 4 Teens. Pathways 4 Teens has programs for both parents and teens to help teens create their own unique path to college success.

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3 Ways Parents Can Help High School Students Prepare For College

 

EnjoyTheJourney

Last week, I had to sign off on the schedule that my daughter has chosen for her junior year of high school. We sat down with my husband and evaluated as a family why she made the choices that she did. We talked about workload, interests, extracurricular activities, and activities that she was involved in outside of school. Junior year is critical because it is the last full year that college admission decisions will be based on.

I could tell that she was really anxious at the beginning of the conversation. After our discussion, she was more relieved. Why the change? It was because I had given her perspective. We talked about her choices including subject matter and content, projected homework load, interests that she has that may lead to selecting a college major later on, and what her favorite classes and activities are. The college selection process is actually a very good way to get to know your teen better.

It’s exciting to be going through this process with my third and final child. However, I feel anxiety too. I have concerns about my child just like every other family that I have helped through the process. Are we making the best decisions for her? Preparing for, selecting, and paying for college is filled with anxiety for everyone. High School Graduation is a major transition in a teen’s life and figuring out what the next step should be is complex.

There are 3 key things that parents can do to help:

Stay Engaged In Your Teen’s Life. Maintain that balance between letting go and staying involved. Talk about the importance of making good decisions. Parents can give perspective especially when teens make mistakes. Give them advice and make them aware of options so they can work through difficult situations. Helping them work through things now gives them the ability to do things on their own later.

Focus On Your Teen’s Needs. I have often spoken with teens who feel stressed that they are behind. Avoid comparisons. Don’t waste the high school years trying to turn your teen into what you think the ideal college application should look like. Focus on the needs and happiness of your teen. The best fit college is a balance between academic, cultural, social, and financial needs.

Review Your Teen’s Overall Academic Plan. Teens change and so will their academic plans. Review workloads. Each teen is unique and every year there are an increasing amount of educational options in school and outside of school that can be used to ensure that your teen thrives.

Every teen can be successful! Start with your teen and help them discover what things truly matter to them. Most of all – “Enjoy the Journey!”

Miriam Phillips-Gill is the founder of Pathways 4 Teens.  Pathways 4 Teens provides educational services for teens, tweens, and parents. Our services give teens the tools and parents the information to help teens create a path for college success.

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Are You Allowing Your Teen to Change?

TeenChangingStarting a new school year is a new beginning.  It is a time of new possibilities, challenges, and accomplishments.  Are you pressuring your teen to stay the same? Are you open to your teen’s changing interests?

This past summer, I was eating dinner with my daughter and some friends when the conversation turned to the question “What do you want to do in college?”  I was shocked when my daughter stated that she didn’t like to talk about college when I was around. I proceeded to ask why and she said because I would think that was what she always wanted to be, and that I wasn’t open to her changing.

Through my company, Pathways 4 Teens, I am an advocate for letting teens create their own unique path to success. Given this, how could my daughter think that I was not open to her changing?

Throughout my daughter’s lifetime, she has been asked if she wanted to go to Stanford University, since both my husband and I went there. Last year she was handed another burden which everyone now questions. My middle child went to college and is studying engineering. Now both my husband and I along with both of my sons will have engineering degrees. Whenever someone asks if she wants to be an engineer, I say that I do not know and that perhaps she’ll be a writer because writing is something that she has always loved to do.  I was trying to lessen pressure from my daughter about her future choices. However, apparently my actions were unknowingly coming across as pressure not to change.

When I interview teens, they often talk about the pressure from parents or society to be a doctor, lawyer, or engineer, etc. Especially with the specialty programs offered in high school. Teens also talk about the pressure to stick with things, and that changing your mind can sometimes be viewed as giving up, or even worse as failure. I have often heard statements from parents like “he has wanted to be a doctor since he was little”.

The time in middle school and high school is a time of growth and exploration, I hope my daughter knows to take risks and try things outside her comfort zone in a positive way. Who knows what she’ll discover about herself?

After our dinner conversation, I was concerned that I was unknowingly sending my daughter the wrong message.  That changed last week when school started and she had to do a project for English class that gave me relief. She chose the above quote as her life philosophy.

I have included her English project as a companion blog piece. – See the related post “High School Sophomore Life Philosophy” at http://www.taketimetogether.com)

Miriam Phillips-Gill is the founder of Pathways 4 Teens. Pathways 4 Teens provides educational services for tweens, teens, and parents. Our services give teens the tools and parents the information to help teens create a path for college success. Register for an event or sign up for our free newsletter at http://www.pathways4teens.com

High School Sophomore Life Philosophy

BlogQuoteQuote: Life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself. – George Bernard Shaw

This is the quote that my daughter picked as a life philosophy when given the project in her Sophomore English class. Prior to seeing this, I was concerned that the message wasn’t getting across. The following is the rest of her project which was her explanation of what this quote means to her:

“This motto applies to my life in that I’m not the same person I was five years ago and I’m not the person I will be five years ahead. I have different likes, dislikes, and a different perspective on life. And I am actively creating that perspective with everything I do. It’s up to me to decide who I will become; it is not a predetermined setting. This allows me to keep an open mind about now and my future, while trying not to dwell on the past.”

Maybe, I’m doing something right after all!

(See the related post : “Are You Allowing Your Teen to Change” at http://www.taketimetogether.com)

Miriam Phillips-Gill is the founder of Pathways 4 Teens. Pathways 4 Teens provides educational services for tweens, teens, and parents. Our services give teens the tools and parents the information to help teens create a path for college success. Register for an event  or sign up for our free newsletter at http://www.pathways4teens.com

Congratulations! You Have a Teenager

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Shortly after my first son was born, I had a conversation with my father. I was feeling guilty about having to leave my 8 week old infant son with a babysitter. At the time, my father took me aside. He told me that while this may be a trying time. It is a time when other people can easily help and take care of your child’s physical needs. However, he said a more critical time when your child will need you is during the teen years. At the time, I didn’t believe him. It seems contrary to the message that society sends about children being more self-sufficient and mothers going back to work when their children start school. However, now that my third child is a teenager. I know that he is right. Teenagers may not need you physically but they need you emotionally.

The first moment I realized that I had a teenager didn’t come when my child blew out the candles on his thirteenth birthday. It came when my child was in the 5th grade at age 10. He came home upset because there was a group of kids going around asking a question dealing with adult subject matter.  I realized we had come to the time of parenting that is truly hard, “the teen years”. The time when I had to take the time to teach my child lessons that he would truly use for a lifetime. I had to take the time to listen and resist the urge to jump in and fix things.

This moment in time was the first of many teachable moments. Moments in time that caught me off guard and made me pause to deal with the situation. It would be so much easier to just tell him what to do but I had to take the time out to explain the details. These are the moments that truly prepared my son to go out on his own. I truly believe that one of the greatest gifts that you can give a teen is the tools to be independent.

Was there a moment when you realized you were the parent of a teenager? I’d love to hear your story. Make a comment and let me know.

Miriam Phillips-Gill is the founder of Pathways 4 Teens. Pathways 4 Teens provides educational services for tweens, teens, and parents that help teens define success while keeping parents engaged in the process. Check out our current event schedule at http://www.pathways4teens.com

Why My Teens Got Gifts From Santa?

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On Monday my son went back to college after being home for the holidays, so now I’m back to a normal routine. As I reflect back on the last few weeks, I think it will be remembered for years to come as a truly special holiday in which we relaxed and spent lots of time together. One event I will remember is when my teens awoke to see special gifts from Santa in front of our Christmas tree.

Yes, we sat our teens down years ago and told them that Santa doesn’t physically exist. However, I told them that the spirit of Santa is alive and well. Santa represents the spirit of giving to others. Each Christmas we take the time to give back to others. When our teens were younger, they actively participated in choosing gifts for families off of tags at the Christmas giving tree from their school or the mall. We also actively gave to food drives. This year, we continued the tradition and spent a Saturday morning packing food at the food bank.

Santa also represents hopes and dreams. It’s important, no matter how old you get, to always dream and have faith that those dreams can come true. Now that our children are older, their Santa gifts have a deeper meaning than when they were younger. My oldest son, who is in his twenties, has graduated from college and does cancer research. He received a cross necklace with the inscription of the Lord’s Prayer. It is the ultimate symbol of faith and courage which is often needed when you’re out on your own. My son, who is in college, received a watch. A lasting reminder that one of the keys to success in college is the ability to manage your time. My daughter who is in high school received special earrings with her birthstone. A reminder of how special she is during a time in life when we often question how good we are compared to other people.

What was truly special about these Santa gifts was that my husband and I picked them out together. The task of picking Santa gifts has often been something that I do on my own. However, the holiday was truly special and I feel very fortunate to have had the time together. I know that one day my children may have families of their own and that they will be the ones giving gifts from Santa.

Pathways 4 Teens helps families make educational choices through student leadership and parent engagement. Contact Miriam at miriam@pathways4teens.com or 602-999-3892 or Visit www.pathways4teens.com for more details! Also follow us on facebook and twitter for more great information and tips on helping teens define success for themselve! 

3 Things Every Parent Should Know About Finding the Best Fit College

BookStackMy husband and I graduated from Stanford University so our children have been asked all of their lives, “Do you want to go to Stanford?”. I realized when going through the college application process with my first son that while I loved my years at Stanford and would be thrilled if my children went there, what I really wanted for my children was a college experience that they loved. I wanted the best fit college for them.

After helping students navigate the college application process for the last four years, I have determined the following:

3 Things That Every Parent Should Know About Finding the Best Fit College

1. Fit the College to the Child (Not the Child to the College)

In addition to meeting academic requirements, it is important for students to begin to know who they are. Their selection of electives and extracurricular activities should expose them to different experiences.They need to discover their strengths and weaknesses (even straight A students aren’t perfect) as well as their likes and dislikes (parents can’t decide this for them) to be prepared to make decisions about major selection and career path. Lack of focus is a major reason students drop out of college or extend beyond 4 years which can waste both time and money.

2. School Counselors do not do Individualized Research of Colleges

While school counselors may give suggestions, it is the student’s responsibility to do detailed research of the college to see if the college meets all of their needs. In many states (especially here in Arizona where the average ratio is 1 counselor to every 750 students), individualized support is very limited. Furthermore, there are thousands of colleges to choose from and there is no way that a counselor can have direct experience with each of them.

3. Students Need Assistance with College Research

Students have several computerized tools that can assist in the college application process but they lack perspective that comes from experience. Furthermore, they can use emotional support. While students need to take a leadership role, parents and other trusted sources can provide input and review information to ensure that informed decisions are made.

Did you find this helpful? Have you been through the college search process with your child? Let me know your thoughts by commenting. You can also go to facebook or twitter to like and share this information with friends.

Pathways 4 Teens offers services to help students determine the Best Fit College and for parents to help guide students in the process. Contact Miriam at miriam@pathways4teens.com or 602-999-3892 or Visit www.pathways4teens.com for more details! Also follow us on facebook and twitter for more great information and tips on the college application process! 

Aargh!

AarghPic

Aargh! is a word I learned when watching Charlie Brown cartoons as a child. It is a word that encompasses the meaning of intense stress and frustration. It is a word that summarizes what I have endured over the past year as I went through the college application process with my son.

The intense stress of the last year was somewhat unexpected given that I have been through the college application with my oldest son and I actually assist teens with the application process for a living. However, this child is different. He is my middle child. This child is the one who has always approached life with intensity. He has always tried to live life on his own terms. This child is the one who hasn’t had the greatest outcomes all of the time. He is my child who forgot how to read between 1st and 2nd grade because he didn’t practice his reading enough. Despite my best efforts — he found it much more interesting to go outside to play or to build complicated structures with legos. He’s the child that had intense curiosity, who would like to explore on his own, to the point where he got lost on a trip to Disneyland. He’s the child who didn’t get credit for homework that he completed and forgot to turn in. In all cases, he eventually learned not by doing what he was told to do but by having natural consequences occur.

My stress over the college application process has occurred because this time the stakes are high and the consequences can truly impact the rest of his life. Given his missteps of the past, I have been holding on a little tighter.  I have been having a problem letting go and letting natural consequences occur. However, I have had to summon the courage and strength to do so.  After much contemplation and prayer for patience, I have had to let go. Of course, I haven’t left him fully on his own. I have made sure he is well informed on all of his options and have gone over the decision making process with him. But in the end, all final decisions have been his.

He has always had a different way of approaching things and somehow coming out okay in the end. I have not always agreed with his decisions and he sometimes has a different set of priorities than me. Yet I try to remember, he is also the child who amazed his math teachers by taking a totally different approach to problems and coming up with the right answer in the end. I have to step back and let him make his own mistakes and have faith that in the end everything will come out all right just as it has before.

Pathways 4 Teens offers services to help students determine the Right Fit College and for parents to help guide students in the process. Visit http://www.pathways4teens.com for more details! Also follow us on facebook and twitter for more great information and tips on the college application process! 

Dream College

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Well the waiting continues for some senior high school students, including my son. Many of the top private colleges are sending their acceptance letters out over the next week or so. My son applied to his dream school of Stanford University which also happens to be the Alma Mater of my husband and I. Stanford will have a 5.5% acceptance rate this year. It gets more competitive every year but you never know if you will get in, if you don’t apply.

I am concerned by how many students I talk to who don’t have a dream college that they apply to. They are concerned about how much the college costs to attend or worse than that, they don’t think that they are good enough because they don’t have a 5.0 GPA and perfect SAT scores. In both cases, you really don’t know the answer to these questions until after you apply. Many students make wrong assumptions. Let’s take these topics one at a time.

Of course everyone should be concerned about the cost of college, it is a big deal. The problem is that you never know the true cost of what it is going to cost you to attend until you apply, get accepted, get financial aid offers from schools, and any outside scholarship offers. Most college websites now have a net price calculator that gives a more realistic idea of overall costs including tuition, room and board, and internal scholarships. However, remember it doesn’t take everything into account and your cost may be even lower. Once again, you never know the true cost until after you apply.

The topic I have a bigger concern with is student’s who think that they are not good enough. You need to understand that many of the major private universities are looking for overall diversity in culture, thought, interests, etc. Many students with high GPA and test scores will not get accepted. College websites  list average test scores of accepted students. Hence, many students that were accepted have scores that are below the average for that school. Colleges are looking at your overall academic preparedness. Can you come to their school and complete the coursework successfully? They understand that students are human and are sometimes going to fumble. Perhaps as a Freshman, you got a “C” in a class that you didn’t have interest in or that was a lower level class that you went on to excel in at upper levels. In fact, figuring out what you don’t like to do can be just as important as discovering interests that you do have and recovery from failures is a good thing. It can prove that you are resilient.

So I encourage students to dream and parents to encourage your students to dream. A dream college should not be chosen based on rankings or where parents went. It should be based on a student’s interests and what they think the ideal academic, social, and physical environment is.

Pathways 4 Teens offers services to help students determine the Right Fit College and for parents to help guide students in the process. Visit http://www.pathways4teens.com for more details! Also follow us on facebook and twitter for more great information and tips on how to empower students to be successful in high school, college, and beyond!

Choosing the Right College Starts in Middle School/Junior High

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The New Year is the perfect time to set resolutions or goals for the upcoming year. In fact, it is a critical goal setting and transition time for teens choosing classes or a college for next school year. There is a study that shows overall only 30% of college students are satisfied with the college that they go to. As seniors begin to get acceptance letters and continue applying for colleges, it is important to take the time out to do research to determine whether the college you choose to attend is a good fit for you.

A good fit isn’t the college that has the highest ranking or the college that gives you the most scholarships. A good fit college provides the support systems that you need to be successful. Hence, the best way to determine if a college is a good fit, is to start with yourself.  Know your strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, while at the same time being open to change and the exploration of new possibilities.

Only by trying new things do we know what we like. Likes and dislikes are a subjective thing that only students themselves can determine. In our era of specialization, with club sports where students play the same sport year-round and specialty high school programs that put students on a bio medical or engineering track of coursework, it is important to allow our students to explore and discover the whole of who they are. This process starts well before senior year in high school. Beginning with puberty, especially in middle school/junior high, it’s important for parents to give students the tools to discover their own uniqueness and start directing their own future