Remembering and Letting Go…

open hand

As we consider all the ways in which our lives present this question of Letting Go, we can find that we’re either open to it, or resistant to it.  There is no doubt that what Letting Go asks of us is difficult!  We have been investing in the care and nurture and success of our children since before they were born; AND, we are confronted with myriad examples of ways to let go of our attachments to them from their earlier years.  We let go of their hands when they learn to walk, we release our grip on the back of the seat when they learn to ride a bike, we wave goodbye as they walk into school for the first time; the list is nearly endless.

As I write this this morning, my own daughter is leaving the country for six months on a work assignment.  I was faced again last night with this question: “How am I holding on in ways that could hold both of us from the truth and beauty of what lies ahead?

So as I came to the reading of the blog post today, I was struck, again, by the beautiful and excruciating truth of the on-going process.  I’m grateful for the vulnerability offered here by Christine Cleary as she remembers what was, while letting it go in order to be fully present to both the sadness and gladness of what now is.

I’m hopeful that Christine’s words help craft this conversation in new ways for each of you.

Peace for your journey, Dane

http://www.onbeing.org/blog/christine-cleary-the-sweet-tension-of-remembering-and-letting-go/7996

Put Your Mask on First…

oxygen mask

My friend and colleague Melanie Rogers recently posted this very insightful and helpful perspective on the needs of adolescents, which would certainly include our soon-to-be college freshman.  I’m grateful for her vast experience and calm perspective in her words here.  I hope that you find this helpful and another guiding voice in this new journey.  Thank you Melanie!

Written by Melanie Rogers, MMFT, LPC-MHSP

When I tell people I work with teenagers, I usually get some version of this response:
“Wow, that’s a tough age. You must be really patient, brave, or crazy.”

I may be a little bit of all three.

The changes that occur in the teenage years make working with (and parenting) teenagers both scary and (potentially) really fun.

Whether the “issue” that brings an adolescent into therapy is anxiety, self- harm, sexual acting out, depression, or relational struggles, a parent’s biggest question is some version of: “How do I make my child’s pain and suffering go away?” or “What does my child need?”

My answer to this heart-wrenching question is: “They need you.” My response is normally met with a mixture of confusion and fear. Your teenager’s biggest need is not for their pain to be fixed.

If their need isn’t to be fixed by their parents, then what on earth do they need? Here are three things every adolescent needs from their parents.

1. Teenagers need their parents to help hold their pain by being emotionally present.
Being emotionally present means giving them permission to feel their own feelings without being shamed, judged, or abandoned.

2. Adolescents need to know that they are enjoyed just for being who they are, not based on how well they can perform certain activities.

3. Finally, teenagers need consistent boundaries. Consistent boundaries help teenagers feel safe, giving them the freedom to explore and develop their own internal boundaries (wisdom and discernment) within the safety net that external boundaries provide.

That sounds simple enough, right? So, what makes it so hard?

Teenagers are amazingly adept at stumbling upon and bringing to the surface their parent’s own need for healing and restoration. Teenagers are like soldiers stumbling through a mine field with clown shoes on, never missing an opportunity to trigger their parents own “unfinished business.” A parent’s emotional reactivity, impulsive behaviors, and distorted perceptions of their child may all be indicators that point to the parent’s unresolved trauma and leftover “issues.” Sadly, this reactive and inflexible state of mind impairs a parent’s ability to think clearly, and remain flexible in their responses, ultimately preventing parents from being able to give their children what they most need.

Adolescents need parents to have access to their own feelings. Having access to their own stories and the the feelings that go with them allows parents to not be as reactive to getting triggered by their children. Simply, the clumsy teenage minesweeper won’t be able to trip the alarms as easily, because the parents will know where they end and their children begin.

Put on your own oxygen mask first.

In short, the most loving thing you can do for your teenager is to put on your own oxygen mask first, so you can see and think clearly to help your teenager navigate the stormy seas of adolescence.

 

Melanie Rogers is a therapist at Sage Hill Counseling in Nashville, Tennessee. She loves inviting people to explore their own interior landscapes, challenging them to be intrigued with the bigger story being told in and through their lives. Melanie loves nothing more than to see her clients discovering, recovering, and living from their truest self.

Financing Sense – A Syllabus…

piggy bank

As the price of higher education becomes more expensive year after year, it becomes incumbent for both parents and students to be more informed and savvy about finding ways to make this dream more accessible and less costly over time.  It’s a daunting task for most families; especially for those students who will absorb the primary responsibility of financing their own education.

I’m grateful to one of our readers (thank you Brandi) for the link to the following graphic from CompareCards.com.  It is a comprehensive and thoughtful treatment of a long-term relationship with finance and debt of college expenses, and ways for students to begin a life of negotiating the intricacies of the financial marketplace.

I might suggest that you sit down with your student to walk and talk your way through this step-by-step process of considering the ways your family’s unique financial situation will come to play as your student begins the college experience.

http://blog.comparecards.com/infographics/financeu-syllabus/

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Hovering…

helicopter parent cartoon

The term “helicopter parents” has become so familiar in our culture that it is now commonplace.  Visual imagery brings to mind the overly protective, hovering parent or parents who, with (they would certainly say) all the best intentions, go beyond historic norms of their parental role to make sure that their child has the optimum life experience.

This is a growing dynamic for university administrators and faculty as the hovering has, in recent years, become not only more evident, but more aggressive.  I read recently of the newest version of the phenomenon: “Apache helicopter parents,” describing the growing aggressiveness of many parents to make the reality THEY want come true.

I suspect many of you would be startled by some of the Continue reading →

Letting Go & Holding On

Letting go


I have been presenting my College Parent 101 session a lot in the last few weeks as this is the season for New Student & Parent Orientation sessions at universities across the country.  As I walked across campus the other day I thought, “Hmm, if we could harness the energy surrounding all the feelings both students and parents are experiencing right now, we could light up several small cities.”  There is a LOT of emotional energy being expressed about what lies ahead.

I watched the movie Toy Story 3 again recently, reminded that the premise of the story is that Andy, the “human” character in the series, is preparing to leave for college and is asked by his mother to pack what he needs and box-up or give away what he no longer wants.  It is a great depiction of the process every student is going through about now; what will I let go of and what will I hold on to – both literally and figuratively? (if you haven’t seen TS3, or haven’t seen it in a while, I think its well-worth watching with this transition in mind)

So much of our identity gets wrapped up in Continue reading →

Learning the Bicycle

learning to ride

In the spirit of looking from every angle as this idea of Letting Go, I offer another poem for us to consider; this one by Wyatt Prunty, called Learning the Bicycle.  I have, since the inception of CP101, been posing varying ideas for parents to consider regarding what Letting Go truly asks of us.

For veteran readers, we know that this idea of Letting Go is more about OUR work of letting go of OUR agendas for them – our “shoulds” – that are at the core of what hold our daughter & sons in a place of reliance on us and the ways that this inhibits their ability to become healthy and self-reliant.  These “shoulds” also hold us as parents back; perpetually connected to the roles we have occupied in our children’s early years, but must be relinquished so that we too might be free to be our best and fullest selves.

So I offer Prunty’s poem here as an image of what this process feels like; what the bicycle process can offer us as a teacher to do our best work as parents, and to offer our children into the teaching of their own lives.

Learning the Bicycle
by Wyatt Prunty

The older children pedal past
Stable as little gyros, spinning hard
To supper, bath, and bed, until at last
We also quit, silent and tired
Beside the darkening yard where trees
Now shadow up instead of down.
Their predictable lengths can only tease
Her as, head lowered, she walks her bike alone
Somewhere between her wanting to ride
And her certainty she will always fall.
Tomorrow, though I will run behind,
Arms out to catch her, she’ll tilt then balance wide
Of my reach, till distance makes her small,
Smaller, beyond the place I stop and know
That to teach her I had to follow
And when she learned I had to let her go.

Peace for the Journey: At the End of the Year

summer stream

As the academic year winds quickly to a close, there is much to process. As part of the end of the year/semester closing process in the academic world, we are regularly processing assessment tools to gauge feedback to help us confirm what we may already know, as well as learn things that we may not have been aware.

In the on-going cycle of parenting our students, I believe it is helpful to assess how we are doing, no matter their stage of development or our vantage point on parenting.  At this point in the year, you might want to ask yourself questions such as, “How did I do parenting my student through this academic year?”  “What did I learn from what went well, and Continue reading →

The Effort to Listen

Listening

In the next few weeks, our students are coming home. They will be, as predicted, different people than the ones who left last fall.  They will be filled with new ideas about the world, about themselves, and likely about you: Mom &/or Dad.  Those new ideas can be both refreshing, exciting to engage in, and can also be a bit scary.  “Who is this person sitting in front of me?  She looks like my daughter, but I don’t recognize her anymore?

One of the many things s/he is asking of us is to listen to who s/he is becoming.  Its hard to listen when we feel fear about how things change; especially when it is a relationship we care about deeply.

We all suffer, at times, from the effort to fix or give advice rather than to listen. Theologian Paul Tillich puts it this way, “The first duty of love is to listen.”

So often when we refuse to listen, we become obsessed with remaking the world in our own image, or the way WE want it to be, rather than being open in our spirit to what is real and asking us to listen to the truth before us.

In the words of a Native American Elder, “To truly listen is to risk being changed forever.”

  • As you sit with this idea, can you bring your awareness to your propensity to fix or give advice?
  • Can you allow your breathing to loosen your hold on your efforts do or say something?
  • What do you feel about listening so deeply and attentively that you risk being changed?  

Peace, Dane.

Year in the Life of a Freshman: May

May

Transitional Issues

  • Final exams
  • Missing college friends over the summer
  • Conversations about expectations during summer months
  • Packing up to move out

Tips for Successful Parenting

Hang in there!  Finishing the first year in college is a big deal!  It’s a great opportunity to celebrate your student’s accomplishment.  Students with a year of college under their belt are not the same person you moved to campus just a short 10 months ago.

The freshman year in college is considered one of the most Continue reading →

Looking & Seeing

looking.seeing

I find today a new sense of gratitude for Thomas Merton’s perspective…

“Because looking means that you already have something in mind for your eye to find; you’ve set out in search of your desired object and have closed off everything else presenting itself along the way.  But seeing is being open and receptive to what comes to the eye; your vision total and not targeted.”

Ron Seitz, Song for Nobody, A Memory Vision of Thomas Merton (italics added)
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