Stress can be the lure of the Dark Side, influencing the very basics of life: eating, sleeping and interacting with others. When families have a college bound child, both parents and students are involved in college prep activities. The stakes are so high, college prep challenges frequently take stress to a new level. Families may feel like they are about to burst in a college prep pressure cooker, but they can act to prevent an explosion.
Here are 5 ways parents can turn college prep stress into a plus.
1. Put into perspective
The world will not end if the student doesn't go to an "it" school. Nor will it fall apart if the student changes his career choice. The fact is success comes when people are motivated and maximize their opportunities. CEOs, engineers and teachers graduate from a wide spectrum of colleges. People change jobs and careers several times in a lifetime. The key is to direct energy from college prep stress into thinking like an educated consumer: What can the college's courses, programs and activities do for the student now and in the future?
2. Get organized
The U.S. has over four thousand four-year and two-year colleges. That's a lot of schools to research, choose from and visit. Then there are the tests to prepare for, applications to file, deadlines to meet and finances to prepare. No wonder it can be overwhelming for families actively engaged in college prep. Use stress as a motivator to ensure the timely completion of tasks by thinking like an organizing specialist. A calendar can list who should do what and when. A shared folder (physical or virtual) can provide easy access to the calendar as well as important documents.
3. There's no "I" in team
Although it's the student who goes to college, college prep is a family affair. Channel the stress by combining forces and forming a family college prep team. Assign each member specific tasks (see #2 above), have regular meetings to review and revise, and cheer each other on.
4. Find the fun
All work, no play and stress is a bad combination. Mix business with pleasure, turn stress upside down and find the fun in college prep. For example, college visits can easily turn into a "collegecation" by combining a family vacay with a college tour. Check out free and low cost campus facilities and events open to the public. This not only serves as a fun break, but is a chance for students to get to know the college better. Also, add some fun into family meetings (see #3 above) such as playing a board game, cards or balloon volleyball. This gives families a chance to enjoy each other's company while spending quality time together.
Very often all the tasks of college prep can make families feel like they are smack dab in the middle of a theatre of the absurd. Be objective and recognize there's a lot of craziness packed into college prep stress. Turn this negative into a positive with laughter. Tell jokes, watch funny movies and share silly stories.
Remember, time flies when you are having fun. Soon, families may be thinking back to the good old days when students were in high school and joined their parents to work together and enjoy college prep! Meanwhile, I have loads more college prep stress-reducing tips and information in my book, Parents Of College Students Survival Stories. Don't let college prep stress your family out. There are ways to turn stress into a plus.
I'd love to hear your comments about how you deal with college prep stress and college prep, via Twitter and in the comments section below. To get an email about my next articles, please click on "Subscribe" directly above "Comments."