While summer can be a time of relaxation and fun in the sun, for parents of high school children it can also be stressful time. College road trip season, the dreaded time of year when you get on a flight or get in the car and travel to the colleges either you or your child may be interested in attending or applying to can not only strain your finances, it can strain your patience as well. The college vetting and application process can be challenging in the best of circumstances.
If you are in the midst of a divorce or struggling with your ex post-divorce, collaboration on this summer travel plan can be challenging, and you may only have your parenting time that you can use to travel with your child. In a divorce where parents are not speaking to each other or are not in agreement in terms of supporting their child in this part of the journey, it can be an even more stressful experience for your teen. Before my clients begin their travel, I encourage them to have a ROAD plan. It can make a world of difference for all parties involved.
Takeaway Tip #1: Record it all! Try to journal to keep track of the experience. If your communication with your co-parent is not optimal, it can help to provide your teen with the framework for them to have a productive conversation with their other parent. Keep track of likes and dislikes, the campus resources, your child’s (and your) reaction. Note any individuals with whom your child met and if any follow up is required. Make note of the contact details and next action steps. While you are supporting your child in the business of evaluating and applying to college, it is also a great way for you to savor the experience of this special time with them. Also, with a list in hand, once they go to their other parent, there is an action plan in place that they can carry out in your absence. It also allows for a neutral conversation about your child’s experience. Your ex may even be inspired to update the list with their findings as well.
Takeaway Tip #2: Organize to de-stress and create success. These trips are, at times, a luxury that many parents cannot afford, but they can be so important in helping your child begin to internalize what a college journey could be for them. If finances prohibit a major trip, see if a relative or family friend can support you in hosting your child and taking them to tour the colleges in their area. No matter who is escorting your young adult, having all the information organized in advance, such as tour dates and times, the official and the GPS address and the phone number for the admissions office, or the parking instructions can make all the difference if you are thrown off schedule and pressed for time. If you will be staying at a hotel and traveling by air, rail or bus, having your entire itinerary organized in an email to yourself or a printed calendar will be helpful. If you have friends in the town, giving them a heads up in advance that your are visiting their neck of the woods can offer the opportunity for fun reunions as well.
Takeaway Tip #3: Allow for playtime and fatigue. Your teen may be overwhelmed, and is important to remember that they may not be able to handle the same pace you bring to a business meeting or a major project. They are not only dealing with understanding the campus, but also the reality that they may soon be leaving home. Those thoughts can be overwhelming, and you do not want them to shut down on you and the experience. No one knows your child better than you so plan and prioritize accordingly. Remember that this is an important chance to bond with your teen, so think about and plan for fun things you can do together as well, if you are on the road together. Maybe you can see a movie or attend a free summer concert in the park in the city that you plan to visit. If your hotel has a pool or a great restaurant is nearby, use that time to relax together after a long day of driving and visiting campuses.
Takeaway Tip #4: Don’t micro-mange your teen, but encourage flexibility. Remember this college experience is about them more than it is about you. They have their own internal radar, and an ability to ask the questions that are most relevant to them. This is the beginning for many teens in learning how to vet and evaluate major life choices. The more space that you give them to practice those skills, the more invested they will be in their college choices, and the more they will build their self-esteem. If you have specific questions, ask them, but also see what your child is interested in asking as well. Maybe they will be willing to incorporate your suggestions. If your teen wants to meet up with a friend who is already attending the school, or gets invited to an impromptu activity, try to be flexible and let them wander off and explore without you, if your schedule allows. Sometimes the unexpected experiences can allow your teen to really connect with a school they may not have considered previously.
Wishing you safe travels as you embark on your summer college journey with your teen!
If you are contemplating divorce, or struggling with a high-conflict divorce procedure, let Tamara Harris, CEO of Tamara Harris LLC, be your partner as you navigate through each stage of your journey. As an impartial, experienced professional, Tamara will work directly with you to give you the best tools and strategies to manage the specific challenges and uncertainties of divorce. Serving as your Divorce Coach and advocate, she will help you see clearly during this time where emotions can often impede and derail your divorce procedure. While each member of your high-conflict divorce team – lawyers, accountants, financial advisors, and other experts – will be advising you, Tamara will help you to synthesize this information, think strategically about the options you have with clarity and purpose, and get your divorce across the finish line. Visit tamaraharris.com for more information, or contact Tamara Harris to discuss becoming a client. All inquires will be held in confidence.