Preparing your teen to leave the nest


Episode #104 Preparing your teen to leave the nest

Question of the Day: 

Dear Torie,  My first born is a rising senior. We are heading into a BIG year with college applications, tours, SAT tests, in person school and extracurricular activities. There’s a lot to think about and a lot to process. This time next year he’ll be moving out to live on his own for the first time. I want to make sure he is prepared so I’m compiling a list of things I need to teach him: check pockets before you do laundry, cook a potato in the microwave, use condoms, ask for consent, create a budget, introduce yourself to professors during office hours and sit in the front of the room, things like that.  Do you have any suggestions to add to this list? There’s so much to cover and only one year left to cram it all in. Any advice for a crash course in turning my darling boy into a man?  Thanks,  Summer

Parent Educator Answer: 

There are many things we could add to your list that fall into the categories of finances, life skills, social skills, etiquette, academic success, safety, automotive maintenance, the list is endless. You could google, read blogs, listen to podcasts, order your son the book, Adulting: How to Become a Grown Up in 535 Easy Steps.    There is a ton of valuable knowledge out there, the problem is overwhelm and disinterest. If your son doesn’t think this information is relevant to him RIGHT NOW, he probably will tune you out. If he is feeling overwhelmed with college applications, school work, building up his life skills and having a fun senior year, he’ll run into an attention bottleneck. This happens when too much information and stimuli are coming in so even if he WANTS to learn, he doesn’t have the mental bandwidth to take it in and filter.    In my opinion, the 3 most valuable skills your teen should take off to college with him are: social skills like how to make friends, time management skills and healthy ways to cope with stress. I created “15 texts to send your teen to reduce their stress and make them nicer”. Go to to download the pdf and be a supportive cheerleader to your stressed adolescent.    If you want to prepare him to leave the nest, choose to focus on the things that seem most salient, relevant, timely or fun. What is he interested in learning? If he’s a new driver, then learning to change a tire and check the oil may be most relevant. Have him take the car into the shop.  If he’s excited about earning money, teach him about compounding interest and ROTH IRA’s.  If he has his first girlfriend, teach him about condoms and consent.  If you look for timely “teachable moments” instead of an endless checklist, helping your teen adapt to adulthood will be natural and fun instead of just one more thing on the to-do list. 

Life Coaching Answer: What gets in the way from finding relaxed, “teachable moments” to help our children gradually turn into adults?

Our mommy heart.  My hunch is that Supermom Summer is having some EMOTIONS about her son’s last year at home and instead of feeling her feelings, she is focusing on tasks and to-do’s.    The way she says “WE are heading into a big year” and “There’s a lot to think about and process” tells me there are some emotions that are bubbling up that she would rather not feel.  This is kinda like having a pot of water boiling on the stove but instead of addressing it, you puta lid on it and focus on other things in the kitchen. This does not make the water stop boiling. It makes the water spill over, gets loud and makes a mess.When this pot of water / emotion is left unattended, the pot will burn.  When you’ve got emotions that are bubbling up, it’s MUCH BETTER to acknowledge them. Pay FULL ATTENTION to the feeling until it simmers down. If you can watch the water bubble and boil, without feeling the need to run away and distract yourself, it will slowly become calm again and you won’t have to deal with messy, emotional overflows of emotion.  Your child’s last year at home is an emotional one.  Fear over their uncertain future.  Fear of not having prepared them well enough.  Fear of not having control and not knowing where they are all the time.  Fear of them making mistakes with big consequences.    Grief over losing the little boy you once had.  Grief over no longer being the center of your child’s universe.  Grief over not being able to protect him from negative emotions or experiences. Grief over your role ending as chauffeur, chef, cheerleader, coach and confidante.   Before you start scrambling to fill out your list of to-do’s, allow yourself to feel the fear, grief and any other emotion that may be bubbling up.    How to feel a feeling:  Start by trying to identify WHERE in your body you feel the fear. Then BREATHE and imagine widening out the body to make room for the emotion. What does it feel like? Is it heavy or tight? What is the texture like? The color? Does it make a sound? Is there movement? Breathe and allow for 90 seconds.    Your high schooler is focused on who he wants to be. What he wants to study and where he wants to go to school. He’s asking himself some really important questions about the kind of adult he wants to be.  Try asking yourself the same kinds of questions.  For moms as well as kids, moving out is a time of big transitions. Spend some time thinking about who you want to be when you aren’t busy raising kids. What do you want your next chapter to be about? How do you want to fill your extra time? In which area are you interested in growing?  Some of these questions might leave you with an uncomfortable emptiness. That’s ok. Just breathe and allow yourself to feel the void of the empty nest. It’s not bad, just different. The brain doesn’t like change and will freak out and want to fill it with worry and tasks. It’s an exciting and emotional time but fighting and denying the hard parts will not help. The easiest way through it is to feel it all, allow it all, accept it all, and start creating a vision of a fabulous new future.   

Supermom Kryptonite – College expectations

Parents have a big influence on setting the expectations for what college will be like for their teens. Some will “talk it up” about how fun it’s going to be, how many friends they will have and parties they will go to. Some communicate their own fears talking about how much work it’s going to be, how many dangerous situations they may find themselves in, how careful they need to be, etc. Don’t be all doom & gloom, nor all sunshine & roses.  The reason we remember college so fondly is BECAUSE it was hard. We made a lot of mistakes and bad things happened because we had freedom. We formed tight friendships, we cried and suffered rejection, we learned to appreciate our parents, we learned our parents were weird, we failed, we succeeded, we celebrated, we experimented, we struggled without the eyes of our parents watching us struggle. It was brutal and beautiful. It was college.  What I learned from my son’s freshman orientation is…..”All college freshmen come in wanting 3 things: good grades, a good social life, and a good night sleep. Don’t expect to have all 3 at the same time. Some days you will have to choose. Some months or semesters, you will have to choose.”     

Supermom Power Boost – Parenting Fails, courtesy of Grown & Flown 

Grown and Flown is a book, blog, website and Facebook Group by Lisa Heffernan and Mary Dell Harrington. The Facebook Group has almost 198,000 members so it’s a great place to get a HUGE response to questions or problems about raising young adults.  One mom recently wrote a post titled, “Things I failed to teach my children” citing her teenagers inability to open a can with a peel back top.  Thousands of other moms joined in talking about their teen or young adults inability to use can openers, tie their shoes, address an envelope, mail letters or packages from the post office, clean or plunge the toilet, ride a bike, use a tampon, read cursive, deposit or write a check, look people in the eye, have a phone conversation and put their napkin in their lap.  It was hilarious to read and share in the communal incompetencies of our young adults. Have some levity around this stage of life. If your college kid puts dryer sheets in the washing machine and aluminum foil in the microwave, know that he is in good company. It is impossible to prepare your child for every scenario. Do your best to keep it fun, relevant, salient, and timely. Pay attention to your own emotions during this transitional time and be gentle with yourself. This is a really big deal for YOU and a perfect time to hire a life coach for yourself to have support while going through it.  Your kid is going to screw up, but that’s kind of the point.    Quote of the Day: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” Winnie the Pooh. 

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