Don't just apply to college… Position yourself.

College, Passion, Purpose: Readiness is All

Your teenager has been given all the opportunities you never had growing up. You child has been offered material blessings, an affluent suburban community with a competitive high school, as well as parents willing and able to support his or her expensive extracurricular hobbies and finance spectacular enrichment summer programs and travel. Of course, you will pay for academic tutoring, diagnosis and treatment for learning disabilities or attentional disorders, and college consulting to ensure acceptance at a prestigious college.

It is frustrating, however, to find that all your generous, nurturing support has not yet translated into success for your high school student. Your son or daughter does not seem to be driven (as you undoubtedly were). Your teenager has lackluster grades, does not seem to fully appreciate, or take advantage of, enrichment opportunities, and does not appear to have much of a life mission. Rather than seeing your child go beyond you and your spouse, you have the sinking feeling that your child could become yet another sad example of regression toward the mean.

So when will it all come together?

I have written extensively on the role of adversity in building determination and purpose in a young person’s life in my book and blogs. If you are discouraged, read my posts: Not Just Getting into College: Parenting for Purpose, Antidotes for the Race to Nowhere, and The College Process: Dealing with Rejection. Throughout our children’s lifetimes and most of our own, we Americans have been blessed with a strong economy, affluence, and peace. Our kids have only recently begun to encounter the impact of a recessionary economy. Perhaps in our own complacency, we have been deceived into believing that our children need a “perfect” environment in order to survive and thrive. Greg Esterbrook challenges this idea in The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse.

As our Greatest Generation parents or grandparents will confirm, it is adversity that builds inner strength, determination, grit and character. We human beings need adversity just as muscles need resistance to build strength and tone. Ironically, by trying to give our children everything, we may have actually worked against their sense of purpose and their ultimate success.There is, however, hope for our sheltered, indulged and entitled kids, as there is for every generation. The first thing I advise you to do is, do less, and let your child do more. Then have faith in life, that life will teach your child, and have faith in your son or daughter, who will process those lessons, dig deep within, and find those inner resources. Your young adult will begin to make a shift—I guarantee you–from your ownership to his or hers. Yes, your young adult will genuinely OWN his or her life, find the passion, and the ultimate purpose. You, however, need to get out of your child’s way, as I wrote in How Parents Can Launch Their Young Adult Children By Being, Not Doing.

If you do not see this happening right away, do not become discouraged, because it is happening below the surface. Like gestation in the womb, development is mostly an inner thing; manifestation is a result, a culmination, an end-product, that occurs when everything has finally come together. As I wrote in High School Juniors Apathetic about College Applications?, parents simply need to be patient, because profound growth and tumultuous change is always going on inside an adolescent, and when ready, the young person will care about the future, and begin to prepare for it.

The spiritually wise psychiatrist Dr. Frederic Flach, MD, wrote about the intersection of inner readiness and the serendipity of circumstance in an intriguing book called The Secret Strength of Angels: Seven Virtues to Live By. He presented a powerful quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “If it be not now, yet it will come: the readiness is all.”

Let your child’s life unfold, with life as the teacher.

Related posts: Parents, Teens…and the Dance of College Applications, How Parents Can Launch Their Young Adult Children By Being, Not Doing, Not Just Getting into College: Parenting for Purpose, Helicopter Parents: College and Beyond, and Honorable Adulthood.