It’s already nearing that time of year, when your child will leave the nest for the first time, and embark on a new journey. Heading off to college for the first time is incredibly exciting, and incredibly nerve-racking, for both children and parents. It is a huge change for everyone involved, and it requires careful preparation and navigation.
The University of Southern Florida came out with a great list of “Helpful Tips for Parents of College Students.” You can read the entire list by clicking on the link, but I wanted to highlight just a few tips that, as a recent college student, my friends and/or I found to be crucial.
- Come up with a communication plan. I can’t emphasize enough how important this is. Each relationship is different, and each person has different expectations. Before your child sets foot on a college campus, come up with a communication plan (phone, email, text) that you all can live with.
- Do not worry excessively about the “down in the dumps” communications. As a college freshman, lots of things are changing, and change can be difficult. Know that with new friends and new relationships at school, your child will likely turn to you at home for any “venting.” Be patient with these communications, and work to stay cool. Know that just by listening, your are a tremendous help to your child.
- Care packages go a long way. Students love to know that you’re thinking of them, and especially love to get a batch of mom’s homemade cookies that they’ve missed so much!
What questions are on your mind as you prepare your child for his/her college adventure?
– Molly Luchtel, guest blogger
Last week Molly shared some great thoughts about competition surrounding the county fairs. She ended by asking, “What strategies do you have for ‘staying cool, calm, and collected’ during intense competition?” I’m the new member on the blog team so guess I’ll jump right into the topic. As a former 4-Her and mother of a 4-Her, I have plenty of first-hand experience with the competition issue. And if you want to learn a little more about me, click on the “about us” tab.
Have I always stayed cool, calm and collected? Wish I could say yes but I will admit to a few lapses here and there. What I do know is that my demeanor (and that of my child or grandchild) usually follows my perspective on the event. If I focus on skills and experiences rather than the end product, it is easier to stay calm. Start by understanding what the real meaning of your child’s experience involves. Then provide the support and encouragement the child needs. My girls can still hear me saying, “And what can we learn from this?”
Sure it is fun to get blue ribbons, have an exhibit chosen for the state fair, show the grand champion animal, or be crowned fair queen. Reality is – only a few children can achieve these results. Does that mean the rest of the children (and their parents) lose? Of course not if we truly believe in the adage of “child first, winning second.”
Did you know that children 8-12 years want to be involved to have fun? Even in junior high, fun remains the number one reason to compete. If you need a nudge on this one, stop by the livestock barn or foodstand after the day’s activities. There you will find the children enjoying being together and those are the good memories that last long after ribbons and trophies.
I don’t have a strong background in 4-H, but I do know the competitions can get rough and tough. Just like sports, people spend a lot of time and money preparing for these events. So, if you’re a parent of a child competing in 4-H, how can you keep it all together at these competitions?
- Focus on the child. Every event, win or lose, is a learning experience, and an opportunity for your child to have fun. Let’s face it…if you can’t have fun as a child, when can you have fun? So loosen up a little! Let your child enjoy it!!
- Resist gossip. Even if it’s juicy information about another competitor, parent, or fan…resist the urge to tell the world. Juicy gossip never builds self esteem, and often times, the people dishing it out are the topic of conversation for others.
- Focus on your role as a parent. You are not a judge, officiant, or worker at the competitions. These people are there for a reason. No matter who the authority figure is, you are crossing the line if you try to take over his/her position. Focus on your job as a parent, and work hard to be supportive of your child, and a good role model for him/her.
I realize that these pieces of advice fall into the category of “easier said than done,” especially when it comes to your child. So, I encourage you to start the day of by getting in the right frame of mind. Start by reminding yourself of the bigger picture or purpose behind the day. For example, we enrolled Timmy in 4H because (1) he likes animals, or (2) we wanted him to learn about the family business, or (3) it was an opportunity for him to learn about things I cannot teach him…the list could go on and on, but start by focusing on the larger purpose behind your child’s involvement with 4H.
Then, in moments of heated competitions and rising blood pressures, remind yourself of this “big picture”, and act in accordance with it. If the purpose of getting involved in 4-H was for Timmy to learn about the family business, don’t ruin all his progress by teaching him poor manners. Instead, act in a way that you would want him to act in a tough business situation, should he someday decide to take over the family business.
What strategies do you have for “staying cool, calm, and collected” during intense competition?
I hope everyone had a great 4th of July! Mine was spent at a small resort town, where as with most towns, a highlight for everyone is the big fireworks display. We did our best to prep my 3 year old cousin for the event, including talking with her about what she could expect (loud lights, big “booms”), and giving her earplugs. Despite our best efforts, she still found the big “booms” terrifying, and had to retreat into the house with her mom. Some of you may have experienced a similar situation with your children this 4th.
If such a beautiful display of lights can cause such fear and angst for a child, imagine what feelings a natural disaster could evoke. In line with this month’s podcast about natural disasters, I wanted to highlight a few important steps that parents can take to help their children in the event of a natural disaster.
- Let your children know that you are there to keep them safe. Let them know you are still a family, you will still provide a safe environment, and you will make it through this.
- Ask your children what they’ve seen, what they’ve heard, and how they feel about it. Children will need a chance to discuss their feelings. Listen to them, reassure them of their safety, and give them lots of hugs and love. You will likely need to revisit the topic multiple times, as the information, understanding, and feelings children have about the event will change and need to be discussed. It can also be helpful for you and/or your children to speak with a grief counselor.
- Maintain routines or rituals. Maintaining activities that provide a sense of security and comfort can help your children cope with the events. For example, eating dinner together or reading a book before bed can help children feel a sense of normalcy and comfort.
What questions do you have about helping your child cope with natural disasters?
The floods, storms and tornadoes of 2011 are taking their toll on the nation’s children, who may be stressed, worried or frightened about what is happening to them and their families. Learn how to talk to kids about natural disasters in this month’s Science of Parenting radio program podcast.
- Help Children Cope with a Disaster (ISU Extension)
- Helping Children Cope after Disasters (CYFERNet)
- Understanding the Impact of Disasters on the Lives of Children and Youth (PDF) (University of Arizona)
- Any Iowan may call the Iowa Concern Hotline, 800-447-1985, to speak with a counselor 24 hours, seven days a week.
- Project Recovery Iowa serves Hamilton, Story, Polk, Jasper, Warren, Marion and Wapello counties. Residents may call the Iowa Concern Hotline, 800-447-1985, to be connected with a Project Recovery Iowa counselor who can meet with them.
ISU Extension publications
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