My College:
Dear Adina

How Do I Avoid Comparing Sibling Paths to College?

Adina Glickman


Dear Adina,

I have a high school sophomore who has two older siblings in college. How do I avoid comparing their paths to college? Unfortunately for my third child, his high school career has been upended by the pandemic.


Dear Parent,

You don’t avoid comparing their paths to college. This year IS different. But you can normalize the fact that every path is unique.

Recall the zillions of ways your three children have different lives to begin with. Everyone — I Mean Everyone — walks a unique path because they have unique feet, and therefore a unique gait, and what happens to be growing on that path at the time they’re walking influences that walk.

While your two older children may have had similar paths, they were not identical. Notice those differences to normalize the fact that differences between your third child’s experience and theirs is simply a new set of influences.

To be fair, a global pandemic is not just a “new set of influences.” That’s like saying that train wreck over there is a bit of a fender bender. The pandemic is unique in ways that other challenges are not.

Even though there were variations between the paths your first two traveled, there was at least a somewhat predictable process and a clear-ish set of expectations. This is not the case for your third, and there is surely a sense of grief and loss along with the confusion and uncertainty that is growing on your third child’s path.

The grownups have to show the way on this. We have to acknowledge how different and weird life is, and also how “different and weird” are ingredients for novelty and transformation. We have to keep showing ourselves and our kids how we are adapting and learning and making sense of all that is different and weird. It’s not easy to do that, but it will get easier.

Part of what makes it so hard to see how we’ve adapted and made sense of this pandemic is because it’s not over yet. This has not been an acute crisis like 9/11 or the hurricane disasters in recent years. The pandemic has been and continues to be an evolving and protracted tragedy that is still not over. When 9/11 happened, the shock was immediate, and we began processing that shock and the scope of the tragedy immediately. But COVID is still dictating how we live, so we can’t process it or get perspective yet. We are still in it.

Grief has been a predominant experience during the pandemic. Grieving takes time and patience, but it does eventually become less heavy on us. Young people have lost so much this year, and they must be given ample support in grieving those many losses.

But it is not a lost year. It is a life-changing, trajectory-altering year. There is still a future for your third child, and the muscles they will develop in navigating all of this uncertainty and loss will become cornerstones of their adult selves. Keep reminding them of that, and keep showing them how, every day, they move towards that future, and you see them doing it tirelessly and imperfectly.

Your third child needs extra support because of the extra challenges of pandemic high school and the extra wild and confusing ride his college application process will be. Don’t shy away from how different this is for him than for his siblings. It just is. Those differences matter.

Yours,

Adina Signature

Have a question? Ask Adina

Adina Glickman is the founder of Affinity Coaching, which offers academic, life and career coaching to young adults. She is the former director of learning strategies at Stanford University and is the co-founder and director of the Academic Resilience Consortium, an association of faculty, staff and students dedicated to understanding and promoting student resilience. Learn more at adinaglickman.com.

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    2 days ago
    CollegiateParent

    I have not seen my college student in 52 days.

    I expect to see her this weekend when she comes home for a generous week of fall break.

    But I’m trying to coach myself that I will not be seeing the exact same child I left on a college campus back in August.

    I’m remembering some wisdom I picked up during my own college days, when I took a trip to Germany the summer after my junior year. Our group was given a list of “The Ten Commandments of Travel.” I’ve forgotten all but one, but that one is serving me well on this 52nd day: “thou shalt not expect to find things the same as they are at home, for thou hast left home to find things different.”

    I’m recasting this a bit for the situation at hand: “thou shalt not expect to find thy college student the same as when they left home, for they have left home to find things different.”

    One of the things my college kid may very well already be finding different is herself. Different strengths she didn’t know she had (or actually didn’t have). Different interests. Different passions. Different mindsets. Different perspectives.

    My daughter is going to college in part to prepare herself for the rest of her life, which to some extent is going to mean becoming someone new. But that preparation and becoming aren’t going to happen in one fell swoop. They can’t, actually. They can’t wait until second semester of her senior year. They have to start now. I’m sure they have started now.

    I’ve missed my daughter for every one of the 52 days since I last saw her face to face. I don’t know exactly what variation of her might be coming home to me this weekend. But because some things never change, I do know this: I always love her.

    - Guilty Chocoholic Mama - Elizabeth Spencer
    ... See MoreSee Less

    I have not seen my college student in 52 days.  I expect to see her this weekend when she comes home for a generous week of fall break.  But I’m trying to coach myself that I will not be seeing the exact same child I left on a college campus back in August.  I’m remembering some wisdom I picked up during my own college days, when I took a trip to Germany the summer after my junior year. Our group was given a list of “The Ten Commandments of Travel.” I’ve forgotten all but one, but that one is serving me well on this 52nd day: “thou shalt not expect to find things the same as they are at home, for thou hast left home to find things different.”  I’m recasting this a bit for the situation at hand: “thou shalt not expect to find thy college student the same as when they left home, for they have left home to find things different.”  One of the things my college kid may very well already be finding different is herself. Different strengths she didn’t know she had (or actually didn’t have). Different interests. Different passions. Different mindsets. Different perspectives.  My daughter is going to college in part to prepare herself for the rest of her life, which to some extent is going to mean becoming someone new. But that preparation and becoming aren’t going to happen in one fell swoop. They can’t, actually. They can’t wait until second semester of her senior year. They have to start now. I’m sure they have started now.  I’ve missed my daughter for every one of the 52 days since I last saw her face to face. I don’t know exactly what variation of her might be coming home to me this weekend. But because some things never change, I do know this: I always love her.  - Guilty Chocoholic Mama - Elizabeth Spencer

    Comment on Facebook

    Dear CollegiateParent, thank you so much for sharing this! Here’s to all the parents who are counting days and looking forward. 💛

    Ah, this is so beautiful Elizabeth Spencer. You spoke straight to my heart. I don't know how many days it will be, but when mine comes home, I already know she will have grown and changed, I hear it in her words, her voice, her perspective. And my gosh, it's amazing and exciting and scary all at once.

    Gorgeous, Elizabeth Spencer!! And the core of her precious soul will remain unchanged!! 💗

    It does get easier but it’s never the same. Not that we would want it to be. We want them to spread their wings and soar but I’m always thrilled to have them home even just for a little while!

    So excited for you!

    I love this Guilty Chocoholic Mama - Elizabeth Spencer!!! 💜

    Elizabeth Spencer Your brilliant, sweet words touch every mama's core.♥

    Almost 2 years for me 😔

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    5 days ago
    CollegiateParent

    Help your student make it through College Application Season

    Get the Guide: www.collegiateparent.com/guide-to-applying-to-college/
    ... See MoreSee Less

    Help your student make it through College Application Season  Get the Guide: https://www.collegiateparent.com/guide-to-applying-to-college/
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