It can be difficult to navigate the college planning process as a blended family. That’s why we put together these tips to help you see clearer.
3 Tips for Blended Families Navigating The College Planning Process
As you enter the holiday season and extended holiday break, here are 3 tips that will help your blended family better navigate the college planning process.
Get the Birkman
If you’ve been following the Self-Accepted podcasts and blogs, you’ve definitely heard about the Birkman Assessment. It is a powerful tool to use in the college planning process and beyond because it gives insights otherwise unseen to the hows and whys behind your student’s personality, behaviors, and needs.
Another great thing about the Birkman is how it helps parents understand their student’s needs. When you and your co-parents have a better understanding of your child, the focus on the child’s authentic success can remain central. This can also help mitigate arguments.
Taking into account the personality of your teenager can empower you, the parent, to support and empower your child in taking ownership of their own life.
Parents are not always going to agree on everything. And that’s okay. But you need to take ownership of the decisions you make. Where we run into problems is when your teenagers haven’t or don’t want to take ownership of their lives. Telling them that you want them to pursue a certain career or go to your favorite college doesn’t serve anyone. Instead, it keeps them in conflict.
Parents can also cause more stress by asking them continuously, “well, what do you want to do with your life after high school?”
Most parents don’t know what they want to do with their entire lives, so expecting a teen to have this figured out is unreasonable. However difficult life planning feels, the Birkman brings clarity, validation, and empowers people to plan the life they will love!
Courtesy and Respect
Courtesy and respect go a long way. Part of that goes into understanding what’s going on with the other person. The Birkman is a literal roadmap to understanding the other person.
If you can get your young person to think about why one parent is driving them nuts, they will come up with a good response. “He didn’t grow up with much.” “His parents pushed him and he doesn’t know any other way.” “
Parents, teenagers are very aware of their surroundings and environmental pressures. They understand fear and anger. And they can pick those two up from you.
When in this type of situation, help your teenager decipher why the other parent (or you) does x, y, and z. It will help you understand yourself better and see your co-parent as a human. Address the fear head-on.
As a blended family, the college planning process is even more challenging. Your student may be worried about choosing a major that pleases mom or dad. That’s when we pull out the Birkman. Revealing the student’s needs helps navigate towards the best learning environment for them to be the most successful version of themselves.
The Birkman also helps you see why they are making decisions a certain way. We often see students who want to get away from the parent they don’t like or the parent who enforces the rules. Often, they’ll pick a neutral place away from both parents to avoid conflict.
Next, you’ll want to find balance in everything.
To do this, you’ll need to talk less and listen more.
Parents need to release some of their control. Your high school student should be owning their homework, discussions, and teachers. That’s not your job as a parent anymore. If you don’t loosen the reins of control, your child may leave and never come back.
Avoid all or nothing. When they have one parent who is all and another who is nothing, it creates The Great Divide. Again, look for more moderate behavior between you and your co-parent.
Developmentally, your student needs to learn how to stand up to people – starting with you. So you need to allow this.
If a daughter stands up against her father and he tells her not to talk back to them, what do you think will happen when they get to college? They won’t stand up against men. You want your daughter to be strong and independent. That starts at home.
As the parent of a college-bound teen, you need to accept what your child says at face value.
Once teenagers go off to college, many parents have adjustment issues of their own. Your teenager should be getting their support on campus and not expecting you to solve all their issues. This also bodes for calling your student too often, if you do this it takes away the balance.
The end goal of all parties is for the student to be well rounded and, of course, happy. Transitions can be tough, but part of allowing your teenager to grow into an adult is leaving them to their own devices. They have it in themselves to decide what to eat, manage their time, turn in assignments, and pay rent on time. If you’re involved every step of the way, this will delay your child’s development.
Start New Traditions
New traditions are so important in blended families. Holidays, transitions, and starting school are all opportunities for growth or for disaster. Get ahead of it by smoothly creating new traditions now.
When parents get divorced, there’s grief that the original family died. One divorce attorney once told me, “Nothing can be wrong with more love.” In this spirit, I try to encourage my students to imagine why their parents married one another in the first place. When I ask them to do this, they automatically think or say out loud, “they must have loved each other!”
That is a sweet image to carry around in one’s heart. But the reality is that there are other players in the family now: stepparents, step and half-siblings, multiple sets of grandparents, etc.
Divorce is so emotional. But it’s absolutely possible for co-parents to be better parents outside of marriage. And if and when they eventually marry someone new, there are still children involved that need your love.
College is the first big life transition. Exes need to figure out how to make this transition peaceful because it sets the stage for upcoming transitions – college graduation, weddings, babies, etc. This is just the first one!
Talk with your co-parent about those transitions now before you come to them. What are your expectations? What are you willing to give up? Then write it down – just like a divorce decree. This is your transition decree.
How you navigate this sets the tone for future transitions. It’s so important to get it right. Think about how to start new traditions that are rooted in love.