As I have been talking to parents of college-bound high schoolers recently, I see a trend in the nature of the discussions. Parents seem to focus on all the negatives rather than the positives. What happened to encouragement and believing in your children no matter what? Your teen is slacking in the college admissions process or has a slip-off in in one his/her classes. So what? Is that the end of the world? Even if you are going to bash your kid, please do not do it in front of him/her! It truly breaks my heart to see it.
Adolescence is a stage where young people’s judgement might be clogged by their hormones. I get that. Yes; the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for executive functioning of the brain and decision making, is not fully developed until the age of 25 or so. As a parent, you do not want to give the ultimate responsibility to your teen yet, but you can start by having faith in your kiddo and letting him/her take the initiative.
Last week, I had a conversation with Lara’s (my younger daughter who is in 8th grade) tutor. I am an Educational Consultant who employs a Student-Centered College CounselingTM approach in my practice, and I preach what I teach. I expect my daughter to play the leading role in her education. She knows that because that is how I have raised her. When she has a question or wants to schedule a session on a specific time and day, she sends a text message to her tutor herself. Of course, she consults me first about scheduling; however, most of the time she knows her own schedule because she has everything on our shared i-Calendar. Back to my conversation with her tutor. While I was mentioning to her that Lara will let her know about next week’s schedule and if she needs her to bring any supplemental materials to their session, the tutor told me that she would prefer hearing from the parent because “with kids, you never know…” I was flabbergasted by such a demeaning remark. I said to her, “Lara always double checks with me before she schedules anything, so I give her full consent to communicate her academic and scheduling needs with you. I do not need to interfere as I would like to encourage her to take responsibility for her own future.” The tutor was shocked to hear my comments as much as I was shocked by hers. The core of the problem as to why our teens may appear to be “lazy” is because adults do not trust them to make decisions. If you treat your teen like a young adult and monitor his/her actions regularly but from a distance, you will be amazed to see the things they are capable of accomplishing.
During my 24 years in education, I have witnessed that the most successful students are the ones who take the initiative to engage in the process. You think you can control your teen’s life, but how are you going to sustain that once he/she is off to college? Let me be the one to break the news to you: As soon as your teen turns 18, sorry mama or papa, but you will be out of the picture! Have you heard about FERPA yet? Soon, you will – I promise… FERPA stands for Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. It is a Federal law that protects the privacy of a student’s educational rights. It means that certain rights that you have pertaining to your child’s education transfers to your child once he/she turns 18. In simpler terms, you will not have a chance to access your kid’s college class schedule, grades, transcripts, nor be able to communicate with any of his/her professors to get an update on his/her academic performance. Once your son or daughter is in college, your only communication with the school will be limited to the emails you receive if you fail to pay his/her college tuition bill in a timely manner. Pretty harsh, right? I know… I have been there and done all that… After Tuvana, my older daughter, got into Emerson College, we were invited to attend a Parent Orientation on campus. The Director of Family Programs greeted us by saying:
Welcome and thank you for all your hard work in raising these wonderful children! Your work is done! From now on, you have only two tasks:
- Maintain a close relationship with your child because that is the only way you will be able to find out about his/her academic performance. If you are lucky enough, he/she will share his/her grades with you. Due to FERPA regulations, you will not be allowed to inquire about your child. Even if you call us, we will not be able to give you an update.
- Pay your child’s college bills on time. That is the only aspect of your child’s education that you will be able to access and inquire about.
After Tuvana moved into her dorm at Emerson, our first visit was quite memorable and put me in tears. Ozgur, Lara, and I went into the dorm building casually thinking we could go upstairs to visit her. We knew her floor and room number after all. How hard could it be? More dose of harsh reality came from the security guard at the front desk. I was expecting to sign in for security reasons, but I was not prepared to hear that we could not go upstairs until Tuvana came downstairs to escort us to her room. I was speechless. I asked the reasoning behind this only to hear that my daughter had a right to turn down a visitor, so they could not let anyone in before she gives her consent in person and signs in the guest. More tears…
Let me introduce you to HIPAA: The Health Information Portability and Accountability Act. Like FERPA, it is a Federal law that protects one’s health rights. Simply put, as soon as a student turns 18, he/she (and no one else) has control of his/her health care and records. The student can, however, sign a HIPAA Waiver of Authorization to authorize his/her parent(s) to have access to health records, but that is a topic that belongs to a different blog post. Bottom line, you cannot speak to your child’s doctor or make health decisions on his/her behalf unless he/she signs that authorization form. Tears continue…
Do you see what is happening here? Your baby is not a baby anymore. At the age of 18, he/she is expected to take on a lot of responsibilities and make decisions for regarding his/her social, and academic life as well as physical and mental health. Teach them to own their future now! Give them a chance to self-advocate, which is a crucial life skill for college and beyond. They are old enough to drive, so let them be the driver. All they need is someone who believes in them without judging even if they might go into potholes from time to time. Just relax, sit back, and enjoy the ride from the back seat with a casual pat on the shoulder to show your child how proud you are. As your child’s Educational Consultant, I will be sitting next to him/her to ensure his/her safety and security at all times.
Here at EdMission Possible, we are avid believers of Student-Centered College CounselingTM. That is why all our focus is centered around our students’ needs, wants, interests, and abilities. That is the reason of our continued success… Allow us to guide your teen… Let your teen lead the college admissions process. That is the only way he/she will succeed in life, let alone college. If you think you are ready to give it a try, we will be here… Just let us know… You will not regret it…
Burcak Deniz Cakir
Founder and President | EdMission Possible
Burcak Deniz Cakir has a B.A. in Foreign Language Education, an M.A. in English Language Teaching, and an M.B.A., all of which have laid the solid foundation for her professional experiences as an educator. She completed the College Counseling Program at UCLA, which is known to be the most prestigious certificate program in the profession, in 2019. She has previously taught English as a Foreign/Second Language (EFL/ESL) in Turkey and in the U.S. at Virginia Tech, Harcum College, Rutgers University (Newark and New Brunswick Campuses), and Pace University. Having taught EFL/ESL at the college level for 20 years, Burcak can communicate effectively with college-age students from different countries. She is bilingual in Turkish and English. Her extensive experience with international students from many countries including but not limited to Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Korea, and China has given her the opportunity to understand their unique problems that domestic students may not be facing throughout the college admissions process, such as but not limited to extra testing requirements (TOEFL, IELTS), the translation of high school transcripts and recommendation letters, different financial forms and statements required, visa issues, being homesick, culture shock, etc. Burcak currently lives in Edison, New Jersey with her husband, two daughters, and her four-legged son. In her free time, she can be found spending time with her family, reading (lots!) about college admissions and college essays, watching her favorite movies, getting lost in design magazines, and decorating her house.