As your college-bound teen chooses decorations for her dorm and packs her suitcases full of clothes and memories of home, don’t let her leave without the all-important Toolbox for Life.
The Toolbox for Life includes skills and mindsets that promote happiness, success, and personal fulfillment. I believe there are several “Tools” that are essential for teens, especially as they head off to college and especially as they move into a post-Covid world.
Resilience and Optimism
In my last blog, I described resilience and optimism and how you can promote each in your teen. These skills will help your teen as she navigates change and adjusts to new friendships, a more rigorous workload, homesickness, and romantic relationships in college.
But, there are several more Tools for her Toolbox for Life:
When teens understand themselves, they can understand and relate to others. Self-aware teens are better friends and better students. They know how to empathize with others and motivate themselves. To encourage self-awareness, help your teen understand who she is and what she values. Model empathy and show her how to regulate her emotions and deal with overwhelming feelings in healthy, effective ways. Working with a life coach can be helpful as self-awareness is a natural outcome of life coaching.
Perseverant teens have the tenacity to stick with goals and finish tasks, despite the challenges that come up. They embrace the motto when the going gets tough, the tough get going. If your teen easily gives up, you can help her develop perseverance. Praise her anytime you see her sticking with a task or working toward a goal. Name the inner qualities she is tapping into to get the job done. These may include creativity, perspective, love of learning, or curiosity. Highlight the rewards for her hard work, remind her that challenges are temporary and that she can do hard things.
Teens with a sense of connectedness know there are people in their life whom they can turn to for support and advice. They feel loved and valued by others, and readily ask for help when they need it. A sense of connection develops early in life but you can always bolster your teen’s support system and encourage relationships with people outside her family and friend group. These people can include therapists, extended family members, or trusted mentors and coaches.
For many teens, college will be their first experience of independence. They get to choose their class schedule, decide when to eat meals, complete homework, and hang out with friends. Without a time management system, your teen will experience overwhelm and stress. Talk with her about how she manages her life. Notice the gaps and offer ideas for new time management systems to try. Teach her how to prioritize (one of my favorite strategies to use with my coaching clients is LP3, which is described in my book Power Up Your Parenting.) Provide her the resources to stay organized and if necessary, get professionals involved who can teach her an effective system and help her stay accountable.
If your teen is anything like the high school seniors I coach, her emotional pendulum swings from eagerness to move out and be independent to a tidal wave of worry and fear about the years ahead. These extremes are compounded by the fact that the last two years were haunted by a lockdown and social isolation. With a well-equipped Toolbox for Life, your teen will be able to manage the emotions associated with the upcoming changes and make a smooth transition to college. If she needs more support, consider coaching. I can help your teen develop and strengthen all of the mindsets and skills necessary for happiness, success, and personal fulfillment.