Parenting Students with Learning Differences – Dealing with our Own Anxiety

This is the third article by College Parent Central contributor Dr. Lynn Abrahams.  Lynn specializes in college transition and success for students with learning differences.

Julie Lythcott-Haims, in her book How to Raise an Adult (2015), reports that American parents are depressed at twice the rate of the general population. There is no question about it, parenting can be stressful, challenging, and anxiety provoking.

As parents of students with learning differences, we have watched our kids navigate years of school experience. We have been with them through neuro-psych testing, diagnosis, meeting with teachers and special educators. We have shared both the success stories and the brick walls with them. As their parents, we know more than anyone else where the pitfalls could be. This is probably why our own anxiety can swell to explosion when they take that leap to go to college. In fact, it is possible that we could be even more anxious than they are!

I speak as both a parent and as a learning disability specialist, who has worked with college students for the past 30 years, when I say that we need to find healthy strategies to deal with our own anxiety. We will not be able to be supportive to our students if we don’t take care of ourselves first.

There is a reason airline personnel instruct us to put the oxygen mask on ourselves before helping others – if we run out of oxygen we are of no use to anyone else.

Here are some thoughts to ponder as your kids gear up for the transition from high school to college:

Feeling anxious is normal

  1. It is good to admit to yourself what you are feeling and know that there is no shame in it. As parents, we are so biologically wired to “protect” our offspring that we are particularly good at predicting what could go wrong. This is wonderful when they are two years old and running into the road. It may not be as helpful when they begin the process of learning how to rely on themselves in the college environment. When you have been involved with the day-to-day school pressures of your student’s high school experience, it makes sense that it would be stressful for you when they are in this transition. The response of feeling anxious stems from your love and it is OK to feel it.

The timing is perfect for self-reflection

  1. When students begin the college experience there’s a natural shift that occurs in your role. This is the perfect time to begin looking at the growing space between you and them. In elementary, middle, and high school you needed to be involved to make sure your student got the services they needed. In college, they need to learn to advocate for themselves. This is a natural time to take a step back and look at what you can do to help that is now in the support role rather than the fix-it role.

Look at the message you are giving

  1. When we get overly anxious about our student’s performance, without meaning to, we can send out the message that they cannot do it. I remember working with a first-year student whose mom was checking in every day to make sure she was following the syllabus in her writing class. The mom meant well in reminding her daughter to pay attention to the expectations of the professor. But the student admitted to me that she thought her mother was sure she would fail in college. We discussed ways we could reassure her mother to let her know that she was aware of what she needed to do.

It is possible to teach helplessness

  1. If our students think we will step in to solve a problem, they may not choose to take the risk of trying to fix it themselves. The concept “Learned Helplessness”, observed and named by psychologists Martin Seligman and Steven F. Maier, is a real phenomenon. Originally the term referred to the fact that animals who receive negative stimuli eventually stop trying to avoid it and become helpless, even when there is a way out. Seligman and Maier realized that this did not just happen with negative stimuli. If anyone believes that they have no control over their situation (if mom or dad fix every problem, the student loses the sense of power) they begin to behave in a helpless manner.

We tend to focus more on the anxiety of our students, who are entering college, than on our own complex mixture of feelings. Yet, there are important reasons to look at ourselves and notice how what we feel may affect our students.  Our goal is to support our students’ confidence as they transition into becoming successful college students. The first step may be to take an honest look at our own anxiety.

Related Articles:

Making the Shift from High School to College When Your Student Has Learning Differences

Support for Students with Learning Differences in College: Do Your Homework!

Does Your Student Know How to Advocate for What They Need?

 


College Parent News and Views

The more that college parents know and understand about the college experience, the less we worry and the better we will be able to help our students to succeed and thrive throughout their college career.  However, there is an overwhelming amount of information out there on the web.   We’d like to help you find some of the information that might be most interesting and useful to you as a college parent.

In News and Views we share recent college related news and sources we’ve found as we do our research.  We hope that this feature will help to introduce you to new ideas and to help you keep up with some of the current issues that may affect your college student – and you.

We invite you to read some of the articles suggested below – and to let us know what you think of some of the ideas included here.

Read moreCollege Parent News and Views


College Parent News and Views

The more that college parents know and understand about the college experience, the less we worry and the better we will be able to help our students to succeed and thrive throughout their college career.  However, there is an overwhelming amount of information out there on the web.   We’d like to help you find some of the information that might be most interesting and useful to you as a college parent.

In News and Views we share recent college related news and sources we’ve found as we do our research.  We hope that this feature will help to introduce you to new ideas and to help you keep up with some of the current issues that may affect your college student – and you.

We invite you to read some of the articles suggested below – and to let us know what you think of some of the ideas included here.

Read moreCollege Parent News and Views


Book Review: Collegiate: 7 Big Ideas to Make College Awesome

From time to time, we like to review some of the books available for parents of college students.  There is a wealth of literature available to help parents cope with the transition to college and the changes that occur throughout the college years.  We’ve offered some recommended reading, and there is something for everyone. See the Recommended Reading section of our Resources page for more suggestions.

In this review, we take a look at a book that is not technically for parents, but for their students. Reading this book may give parents a clearer vision of college, but the true benefit of this book is as a gift for your student.

When we first considered the book Collegiate: 7 Big Ideas to Make College Awesome, we’ll admit to being skeptical. The book is small, has simple graphics, and was written by two college students. How much wisdom can two college students share? The answer is – a surprising amount.

Collegiate would make a great gift for any student heading to college. The book is written, as the authors put it, “from the trenches” by “two regular college dudes” who share what they’ve learned through their college journey. The book is written by students for students and is filled with stories and anecdotes, and sometimes the mistakes, with which students can identify. It isn’t preachy and full of practical study tips by the adults who know better, it is filled with advice from students who’ve lived it – more recently than the rest of us.

Read moreBook Review: Collegiate: 7 Big Ideas to Make College Awesome


A Summer Reading List for Parents of High School and College Students

Parenting is hard work.  Those of us who have been parents for a while know how difficult it can be.  And as parents, we sometimes seek advice from the “experts,” whether those experts are our friends, our own parents, our medical providers, our counselors, or the authors who write books. Remember reading all those books before your baby was born?

We all need a little advice – and a little perspective.

There are lots of great books (and blogs like this one!) out there to help parents as they approach and live through the college admission process and the college years. We’ve reviewed more than thirty of them and we think many of them provide parents important guidance and food for thought. You can read some when your student heads to college, but we suggest that you start even earlier.  Many of these books help you help your child to start laying the foundation for future success.

So we’re offering a summer reading list of our current top ten favorite books.  Start here. Click on the titles to read our reviews. Pick the ones that speak to you. Read one or two or three. Share them – with a friend or with your student. Form a book club.  Start conversations.

Read moreA Summer Reading List for Parents of High School and College Students


College Parent News & Views

The more that college parents know and understand about the college experience, the less we worry and the better we will be able to help our students to succeed and thrive throughout their college career.  However, there is an overwhelming amount of information out there on the web.   We’d like to help you find some of the information that might be most interesting and useful to you as a college parent.

In News and Views we share recent college related news and sources we’ve found as we do our research.  We hope that this feature will help to introduce you to new ideas and to help you keep up with some of the current issues that may affect your college student – and you.

We invite you to read some of the articles suggested below – and to let us know what you think of some of the ideas included here.

How to Help Your Child Reduce Their Stress and Thrive During College

Stress among college students is at an all-time high. Understanding how to deal with it is important for parents. If it’s not your child, it may be the child of someone you know.

Read moreCollege Parent News & Views


Commencement: Are You Ready for the Pomp and Circumstance?

graduate blows confetti at commencement

For many college students and their parents, the finish line is in sight.  Commencement is here, or at least just around the corner.  Students have worked hard to reach this final moment.  Parents have been patient (most of the time), have supported, have worried, have encouraged (most of the time), have paid tuition again and again, and everyone has probably had moments when they wondered if this time would ever come.

But the season of Commencement is finally here, with all of the ceremony and pomp and circumstance that accompany it.  Most college students have experienced a high school graduation, which may or may not have been as formal as college Commencement.  Some students, and their parents, may be wondering what to expect, and what the experience will be like.

What happens at Commencement?

The format of commencement may vary according to the nature of the school, the size of the class, the weather, the location, or the particular traditions of the institution.  Some ceremonies are very unique, however, many factors may be similar no matter where the ceremony occurs.

Commencement is the capstone experience of the student’s academic career.  It is generally a dignified, formal occasion and marks the formal action of conferring and receiving academic degrees.  Degrees are conferred on the candidates by the presiding officer (usually the college president) after they have been recommended or presented by another official (often a dean or provost).

Read moreCommencement: Are You Ready for the Pomp and Circumstance?


College Parent News and Views

The more that college parents know and understand about the college experience, the less we worry and the better we will be able to help our students to succeed and thrive throughout their college career.  However, there is an overwhelming amount of information out there on the web.   We’d like to help you find some of the information that might be most interesting and useful to you as a college parent.

In News and Views we share recent college related news and sources we’ve found as we do our research.  We hope that this feature will help to introduce you to new ideas and to help you keep up with some of the current issues that may affect your college student – and you.

We invite you to read some of the articles suggested below – and to let us know what you think of some of the ideas included here.

Read moreCollege Parent News and Views


Book Review: Countdown to College: The Essential Steps to Your Child’s Successful Launch

From time to time, we like to review some of the books available for parents of college students.  There is a wealth of literature available to help parents cope with the transition to college and the changes that occur throughout the college years.  We’ve offered some lists of recommended reading, and there is something for everyone. Visit our Resources page for suggestions of important books for college parents and their students.

The subtitle of the book Countdown to College says a lot about the book. The Essential Steps to Your Child’s Successful Launch lets the reader know immediately that the book is going to provide a step by step approach to facing what often seems like an overwhelming process.

One of the important and relatively unique things about this book is that it covers a period in the college process which is often overlooked.  Much has been written about how to engage in a successful admission process as well as how to succeed during the freshman year of college.  Countdown to College does this, but it does more.

Countdown to College fills the important gap that occurs in between these two phases. What happens after the college acceptance letter arrives and before your student’s move-in day?  This book takes parents and students through those important months of preparation in an organized, step-by-step approach. As the author states, “The process is not finished when the admission decisions have arrived.  On the contrary, a new array of tasks awaits both of you.  The stark reality is that many if not most families encounter problems they have not anticipated but could have avoided.” Countdown to College can help families avoid many of these unanticipated situations.

Read moreBook Review: Countdown to College: The Essential Steps to Your Child’s Successful Launch


A Decade in the Making: College Parent Central Turns Ten!!

Cue the balloons and confetti!  We’re celebrating April Fool’s Day!

Well, actually, here at College Parent Central we’re celebrating our anniversary, or birthday, or blogiversary. We’ve officially made it to a decade.

It was April 1, 2009 (somehow April Fool’s Day seemed fitting) when we launched ourselves into the unknown and began College Parent Central.  We hoped that as parents accompanied their students on their college journey we might be able to help them understand their role and how best to support their students.  We thought we had a pretty good idea, but we didn’t know what to expect from this venture.

Ten years later we’re still going.  We still believe that there’s much for parents to learn and understand in order to help their students prepare for, transition to, and succeed in college. We’ve been pleased, over the last decade, to hear from so many parents who have found our information helpful.

If you’ve landed on College Parent Central, and you’re reading this, we hope that you find what you need here, too. Know that you are joining the over three million parents who have also visited College Parent Central over the years. We’re grateful for the many parents, educators, and counselors who have shared our information with others, who have provided helpful feedback, and who have taught us so much over the years.

Read moreA Decade in the Making: College Parent Central Turns Ten!!


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