When your child moves on to University it is a time of transition for the whole family. For the young person it is a time when they move on to lead an independent life away from the family home and develop their own separate identity. For the parents left behind it can also be a time of change as you adjust from a full time parenting role to an adult to adult based relationship with your child. It can be daunting for all concerned.
How can you do your best to ensure your teenager is ready and confident about starting and you are ready to face life without them?
It starts with working with them to choose the right University for them and it’s not just about the academic offering. Whilst it is important for your student to be studying a subject that they are passionate and motivated about, it is also important to consider other aspects for example how far they want to be away from home, what social life the University offers and how easy will it be to get there.
To start building confidence with the change and independent living begin with the practicalities such as teaching them to shop, cook, wash their clothes, and manage their own budget. This will help all of you feel more comfortable with how they will handle day to day living when they move away from home.
For some young people leaving home can be a worrying and anxious time, it may feel like all their friends are really keen and enthusiastic about University yet they feel unsure how they will cope and fit in. If they are shy and find it difficult to make friends, how will they cope? If you are a very close family how are you all going to adjust?
When faced with a very anxious teenager who desperately wanted to go to University and do the course she had worked so hard for but was having panic attacks at the thought of leaving home, I used some of the following NLP techniques to work with her to overcome the panic attacks and enable her to start at University.
In our brains we have something called the Reticular Activating System (RAS) which is a bit like radar looking for things we set our sights on. For example if you think about a particular type of car, how many times in a day do you suddenly see lots of cars like that? They were probably always there but your RAS has started looking for them. If you start thinking of all the reasons to be anxious then your brain will start looking for them. On the other hand if you re-frame this and start thinking of all the positive things then your brain will start looking for these and your feelings of anxiety will drop. The more the young person thinks about being anxious and worried then the more they will become anxious. Encourage them to replace the worrying thoughts with good things that happen in their lives and all the good things about going to University. Look for examples of things in the past that they were worried about but when they did it actually had a really positive experience.
We store memories of things that happen to us all the time in our minds and bodies and through creating something in NLP which is known as an anchor we can re-access the feelings from the good memories when we want to. Have you ever heard a piece of music on the radio which has instantly changed your mood and found yourself thinking about a happy memory which you have associated with that music? For example I had fun messing around with my daughters to Lady GaGa’s Poker Face whilst on holiday in Portugal. We all danced around the room and fell about laughing at each other. Whenever I hear this music it takes me back to that moment and I feel happy and instantly start laughing. This is an example of an anchor where the trigger is a piece of music.
Having access to lots of positive anchors is another way to reduce anxiety. Encourage your young person to think about some times that made them laugh, when they were feeling relaxed or had high levels of confidence. To create the anchor, ask them to take each of these memories in turn and recall as much detail as they can about what they were doing, what they heard, what they were feeling and what they could see. You will both notice that in recalling these memories they will start feeling the same as they felt in that moment. When the memory is really strong ask them to create a trigger which they can use next time they want to feel like this. The trigger is an instruction to tell the body ‘now is the time to do this feeling’ and can be something like touching your thumb and forefinger together or maybe saying a word to yourself.
Some other ideas for helping with creating positive anchors are:
· Playing favourite music
· Watching a film that made you laugh
· Keep some favourite photos and posters to remind you of happy, relaxed and confident times.
Anchors are great for helping an anxious student and are also brilliant for a parent left behind who may be missing their child and worrying about them.
3. Different Perspectives
Going to university is a time when young people develop their own separate identity away from the family. This can be daunting for all involved and can often lead to tension and breakdown in communication. The young person wants to appear in control and confident about what they are doing and will often hide their feelings of anxiety or not ask when they feel unsure. As a parent it is difficult to let go of our parenting role and we want to make everything good for our children. This leads to us over managing and over controlling.
Take a few moments to step back and consider what it is like for your young person – they are taking their first steps out into the world as independent adults and have mum or dad constantly telling them what to do, how annoying is that?
As parents we have the experience to know what they should be doing and how to avoid pitfalls. None of us want our young person to make mistakes but we need to adopt an attitude of gentle guidance rather than telling. We need to step back and trust that over the years we have taught and given our children the skills, personal values and beliefs they need to be safe and successful in their lives. By giving them space to explore and make decisions for themselves whilst assuring them that you are there when they need you will lead to a more relaxed communication all round.
As for the young lady who was suffering with panic attacks, she is now a confident, happy young woman who is immersed fully in University life and keeps in touch with home through using Skype, and occasionally goes home with all her washing.
By Corrine Thomas
NLP Trainer, NLP4Kids Practitioner and Personal Development Coach