Families do a lot to get their children into college, much more, of course, than described above. The teen years leading up to college can be especially challenging. During this time, the high school student gains the strength to experiment with his or her identity and begin making decisions that can carry considerable risk, reward, responsibility, and consequence. Throughout this development, the parents provide a safety net, a haven of comfort, the protection of oversight and discipline and the encouragement and loving support they have shown since the child’s birth.
When the child enters college, however, the role of the parents loses its definition and the young adult loses the family environment. Despite this fact, the parents retain an ongoing emotional and financial investment in their child’s wellbeing. Similarly, the young adult exulting in his or her new freedom, may not be aware of the full extent of his or her ongoing need for a strong relationship with his or her parents as he or she attempts to navigate a much wider world than he or she has previously known.
Today, the stakes at play amid this investment and risk are more complex, rapidly changing, and challenging than ever. Families can find this situation stressful, difficult to navigate, and the cause of various failures to communicate. In the absence of communication between parents and young adult children, poor choices and mistakes may be more prone to happen with consequences that can pain the student or the family for some time.
Family Tree Mediation’s Transition to Independence Communication/Education Coaching service works in the following way:
First, the mediator engages parents and their young adult children in a facilitated dialogue that invites each of the members of the family to develop and share with the others his or her own map of the pursuit of happiness. Then, through a series of exercises used to help each family member to work on his or her map of the pursuit of happiness, the mediator builds a conversation about effective communication that in itself models effective communication skills and engages the family in practicing them. The mediator then uses this experience to explore with the family the many contributions constructive communication patterns make in empowering an individual’s pursuit of happiness. Finally, the family is invited to discuss, with the assistance of the mediator, each member’s most important hopes, fears, needs and concerns. In this way, the family is able to gain comfort and confidence talking to each other about the new issues that lie ahead amid the changing parent-child relationship as the young adult transitions to independence.
The result of this process is that each member of the family gains a more fully developed awareness of the many factors affecting his or her and each other’s pursuit of happiness, a more conscious plan for pursuing happiness in a multi-dimensional, balanced and integrated way, and an increased appreciation for the value of the many relationships in his or her life that contribute to his or her happiness. By sharing this exploration as a family, the parents communicate their respect for the adult autonomy of their children and the equality of each member’s perspective. This respect in turn inspires a mutual respect for the parents’ pursuit of happiness, which in some cases, the children may not have thought much about in the past. Most importantly, each family member now has a common language and experience to draw from in nurturing constructive, active communication patterns that can establish from the outset a harmonious and mutually appreciative parent/adult-child relationship.
If you have questions you would like to ask about Family Tree Mediation’s Transition to Independence Communication/Education Coaching services or if you would like to schedule an appointment, you can call me at (650) 762-TREE [762-8733] or email me using the email form on our Contact Us page.
Hank Edson, J.D. CALL: (650) 762-8733
Proprietor of Family Tree Mediation
Serving Redwood City, Atherton,
Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Mountain View,
Los Altos and the wider Peninsula &
San Francisco Bay Area.