My College:
Dear Adina

It Was Just a Basic Question

Adina Glickman


Dear Adina,

I read "Did your student hit their first rough patch?" and it sparked a question based on my freshman-in-college daughter's response to me asking about any tests and what she thought about them. Just a basic question...and I was shut down with the answer, "I don't like tests, I don't like studying, and I don't talk about grades." BAM! She had all A's in high school and works very hard, but even with all the cheerleading and upbeat support along the way, it is clear that she does not want to discuss anything. Suggestions?


Dear Parent,

Ouch. Never fun to be verbally annihilated, much less by one’s own child. On the flip side, you’ve raised a strong and assertive young woman who is unafraid to declare boundaries. Pushing back on one of the people with whom she probably feels most safe (you) is excellent practice for pushing back against anyone who tries to mess with her. Go her! And go YOU for raising a daughter who makes her voice heard.

It’s not so clear to me that she doesn’t want to discuss anything. She actually sounds overwhelmed.  Her response to you sounds like she may be drowning (and embarrassed about it). She may not want to really share it with you because she may fear disappointing you. She has been your “A” student, so her college experience may feel like a substantial fall from grace. So you have some options in making discussion with her more likely.

1.  First, take some time to unpack your exchange with her.

Check in on whether you may be projecting your fears onto her. After all, your reading of the article prompted the question (if I understand correctly). You might say, “I’m worried that you’ve hit a rough patch and aren’t doing well academically. Now that you’re in college, I don’t really know anything about your life so I’m imagining the worst. I want to help if you’re having trouble.”

2.  Ask for a do-over and say, “I totally screwed that up and want to try that conversation again.”

If she says ok, you might say, “I read this article about how students can hit a rough patch in college, and it filled me with wonder (wow, you’re in college!) and dread (what if you’re having a hard time). So I’m dealing with my wonder and dread on my own, but I do want to check in and see how you’re doing in case you feel like I have anything to offer.” Being more transparent in your own thinking models to her that it’s ok to be vulnerable.

3.  Ask for a “do-over” and just connect your heart to hers.

Zoom in on being invested in HER, not her achievements or grades. You may find she’s more open to you. You might say, “I love you and believe in you. I’m up for hearing about anything you feel like telling me. And if you don’t want any responses or feedback, I’m happy just to listen.”

4.  Be the parent who gets support for their own challenges.

Talk to someone who cares about you— a partner, friend, coach, or therapist—about how confusing, frustrating, infuriating, and terrifying it is to have a child in college.

She may in fact, have hit a rough patch, and if she has, don’t panic. It’s still way early, and there’s plenty of time for her to get better at being in college. This may surprise you since she was an “A” student in high school. But in my experience, high school doesn’t usually prepare students for the kind of work they do in college, and the skills students need in college aren’t always intuitive.

It also may be that her earlier achievements were so bolstered by your support that she depended on that more than either of you realized until now. But don’t rescue her; encourage her to get support offered at her school on how to study. If it’s an option for you, offer to hire an academic coach if her school doesn’t have sufficient resources.

And also, don’t panic because even though she shut you down, there will be more chances for you to get better at being someone she feels good about sharing her imperfect self with.

Yours,

Adina Signature

Have a question? Ask Adina

Adina Glickman is the founder of Affinity Coaching Group, which offers academic, life, parenting and career coaching. 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 affinitycoachinggroup.com.
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