I wrote this six years ago today. It’s a tip that I believe is valuable enough to share again. It’s directed to parents of incoming high school seniors and the students themselves. I wish someone would have shared this with me: get that college essay written, now. Over the summer, while you have time. I definitely don’t mean for the parent to write it of course! But, if you have any sway over your teen, get them started on it.
I’ll never forget the agony my son went through trying to write his essays close to the deadline. He suffered from so much anxiety and went through days of writer’s block. He said the essays were the most important thing he had to write in his life.
By procrastinating and putting it off until the end–into a busy time when he also had a half dozen AP classes and swim practice to worry about–“THE MOST IMPORTANT THING I’VE WRITTEN IN MY ENTIRE LIFE” was too big a burden to deal with!
My son told me—during the summer when I suggested he get started—that the questions weren’t out yet. That’s what he said.
I have good news to share with you. The essay prompts for the Common App ARE out in the summer. You can take a look at them, and get some guidance here.
If you can “suggest,” “encourage” or “force” your high school senior to get started on writing essays for their college apps, it may be the best thing you do for them all year. Tell them to get a rough draft done. Put it away for a week or two, dust it off and have them do a rewrite. Repeat this process during the summer. Then put it away until it’s time to fill out the college applications.
You should take a look at it, too. If they let you. If not, have them find a teacher or adult friend to review it. My son wouldn’t let me review his essays. Not that as a writer with a degree in editorial journalism and a 20-plus-year career in writing could I have offered him a bit of help. But, no. He had to do it the hard way. He did get one of his English Lit teachers to review his work, though.
Maybe your kids will take your advice and get the writing started early. They’ll also practice good habits which will serve them well when they are in college!
Writing the essays and taking time for revisions over the summer will definitely lift a lot of senior pressure in the fall.
If your kids are older, how did they do with college essays? Was it difficult for them or easy? Did they procrastinate until the last minute like my son?
My son is visiting us soon to see our new home for the first time. I can’t believe we went through such a rocky time as we did during his senior year of high school. Thankfully, our relationship is so much better than this memory….
“I had no idea your life was so difficult and that your mom was so ‘crazy.’ Your senior project made me cry.”
I found these words scrawled in a handmade card to my 18-year-old, valedictorian son, wedged next to the front seat of my car.
I couldn’t breathe. Then I howled. My beautiful first born. The little pee wee with the stocking cap and button nose who stared at me with huge eyes the day he was born. The toddler with white blond curls who called me “Sweetheart.”
This stranger living in my house made his senior project about me? The horrors of living with me? After everything I had done for him? Years filled with volunteering as a room-mom, midnight trips to the ER for his asthma, driving to the Getty for field trips, opening our house for movies nights and spaghetti feeds. Me?
A friend with older kids warned me that the senior year “can be kind of tough.”
No kidding! I never dreamed how hard. I found myself at odds with this person, who used to be my best friend. I alternated between yelling, cajoling and pleading with him to finish college applications, meet countless deadlines and study for exams. No wonder he called me crazy.
The stress of applying for college proved to be filled with potholes, no, make that sinkholes — the kind that swallow entire houses and families. What to declare as a major, where to live, what to write for a personal statement are enough to stress out the calmest kid.
So what else makes applying to college so awful? Try these numbers on for size:
• More than 3,000,000 high school seniors apply to college in the US — never mind the ones throughout the world trying to get into our top schools!
• Yale’s applications doubled from 2002 to this year, topping 30,000. Yale accepted roughly 2,000 in 2013.
• Harvard has nearly 35,000 applicants, 2029 admitted in 2013.
• Number of applicants for University of California Santa Barbara in 2013 was 62,413, They had 4,550 in the freshman class last year.
• UCLA is one of the most applied to schools in the country, with nearly 100,000 applicants, and they admit 15,000.
Between December and graduation, my son received eight out of nine college rejections –further making him love me, hate me, turn to me in need, and then reject me again. I could do nothing to help his torment. In the end, he accepted admission to his one school.
Hang in there moms of juniors and seniors. When it seems like there is nothing you can do to help, take a deep breath. Be there for support and offer advice if they ask for it. Love them, even if they are undeniably rude. Forgive yourself if you lose your temper.
I believe our kids take out their fears and frustrations on those they love most.
I am happy to report that two years later, the stranger living in my son’s skin has disappeared. I have a son who calls me the moment he finishes a final that he knows he’s crushed. He calls to ask how to cook chicken stir fry. And he calls to say he loves me.
Photos: (top) My son during graduation. (second) a beautiful baby, (above) my son when he was at the age when he thought my name was “Sweetheart,” and (below) a view of my son’s university. Not too shabby, after all.
One thing I miss about Palm Springs is the park and pups. There are several groups of dog owners that meet and walk their dogs together and let them play. Three years ago, we had our daughter and Waffes the pug home for Christmas and the small dog group did this:
The view from our park.
Our neighborhood park is an integral part of my life. I take at least one walk to and around the park every day, enjoying the gorgeous views of Mt. San Jacinto. I’ve walked countless miles around the park for years.
When the kids were young, I’d meet several other moms at the park and we’d sit on blankets on the grass while we watched our kids swing, climb and slide. The park is where we’d go when our kids would get some sort of flying gift like a simple glider, kite or a remote control plane or rocket. When the kids had friends over, they’d go to the park to play ultimate frisbee.
With my daughter at home for Christmas break with her 16-month-old pug Waffles, I’ve learned something new about our park. It’s a great place to meet other dog owners. In fact, we found a group who gather in the afternoons and let their little dogs play. Waffles, who is not at all shy, is trying to take over the group and loves chasing and being chased.
I’m not sure he’s all that welcome in this exclusive club, except by the two lady pugs, Mona and Sadie. The highlight yesterday was a surprise visit by Santa. Waffles, who thinks he’s a media star, thought all the pictures with Santa should include him. My daughter had to pull him out of other puppy pics more than once.
I wrote this when we dropped our daughter off at college. Now that she’s living in the adult world — I definitely still miss these things about her. She spent a few days at the beach with us in August (same beach pictured below when she was a kid). That was the last time we were together. We were lucky to have her sheltering in place with us for a couple of months. That was one of the good things that happened in 2020 — not COVID-19 and being locked down — but getting the chance to spend time together.
Kat at Carpinteria State Beach
We took our daughter to college two weeks ago. She looks really happy in the photos posted on FB and Instagram. She’s made new friends, is enjoying her team and coaches -and likes her classes.
My life is busy with new and old projects. But, I notice a quiet, a sort of waiting sense, that I didn’t feel before. It’s the little things about her that I miss.
I miss her cracking my back. She could give me a hug, tell me to relax and say, “One, two..” and lift me up in the air before she said three. The result was cracking, popping relief.
I miss her making me laugh. Kat is funny. I love her little half smile when she knows she’s especially clever. And the crinkles around her eyes when she laughs out loud.
I miss her cleaning out my wallet and organizing it for me. She’d say, “Mom your purse is gateway hoarding.”
I miss her walking through the kitchen door after her morning workout asking me to make her eggs. I don’t have anyone to make eggs for right now — except my husband and I — and we rarely eat them.
I miss her cat Olive walking on the skinny end of her four poster bed while she watched Netflix on my laptop.
I miss when she was very young and called yellow “lallo.”And when we’d go to the beach and she’d strip naked as soon as her suit got wet. I used to bring a bag full of swimsuits for her.
Kat in a dry suit at the beach with big brother Robert.
I miss going to the pool and watching practice, chatting with the other swim parents. That was a luxury that I took for granted.
Yes, I miss her and I hope she knows how much I love her.
Kat making an entrance into the room.
What do you miss most about your kids if they’re away at college or left home for good?
Wearing masks during a family getaway to the mountains.
There’s an epidemic hitting our country and it’s felt especially among young adults ages 18 to 29. Depression and anxiety. In California, the rates of clinical depression have hit 44% since the Coronavirus shutdowns began. I have a friend who is a psychologist who works with teens and she’s seeing patient after patient contemplating suicide.
The World Health Organization no long recommends shutdowns as the best course of action to fight the global pandemic — even as we’re getting a spike in cases. But in addition to mental illness, the WHO is concerned that shut downs are making the poor even poorer.
Here’s an excerpt from USA Today written by John Bacon:
WHO discourages lockdowns as US hospitalizations climb; 11 states set records for new COVID-19 cases
Dr. David Nabarro, the World Health Organization’s special envoy on COVID-19, urged world leaders this week to stop “using lockdowns as your primary control method” for blunting a virus surge.
“We in the World Health Organization do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of this virus,” Nabarro told “The Spectator.” Nabarro said lockdowns can only be justified “to buy you time to reorganize, regroup, rebalance your resources, protect your health workers who are exhausted. But by and large, we’d rather not do it.”
In California, we’ve been sheltering in place since mid-March. During that time people are feeling isolated, alone and there’s an increase in substance abuse and mental illness. Here’s an excerpt from an article written by Phillip Reese in the Los Angeles Times:
Feeling anxious and depressed? In California, you’re right at home
It’s official, California: COVID-19 has left us sick with worry and increasingly depressed. And our youngest adults — those ages 18 to 29 — are feeling it the worst.
The U.S. at large has followed a similar pattern, with about 41% of adult respondents nationwide reporting symptoms of clinical anxiety or depression during the third week of July. By comparison, just 11% of American adults reported those symptoms in a similar survey conducted in early 2019.
The July responses showed a marked geographic variance. Residents of Western and Southern states, where the virus remains most virulent, registered greater mental distress, on average.
There are many reasons why young adults are seeing the largest increase in depression and anxiety during the shutdown. First, they aren’t able to be socially involved. Their worlds have been turned upside down being stuck in the house with their parents and away from their peers. Second, they are more open to talking about mental illness and are more willing to get help compared to the boomers or older generations. I believe that is a good thing and a glimmer of hope while we all soldier through this together.
It’s important to know the signs of depression and get your children help. Click here for a link to the National Institute of Mental Health to learn more about depression in teens and where to get help.
Last year we were climbing Coit Tower together on a trip to visit our kids.
Why do you think there is such a dramatic increase in depression and anxiety among teens and young adults?
Have you noticed that our adult children are taking longer to fly the nest than previous generations? When I was young, it was common for kids to leave home after high school graduation. In my hometown, many got married after high school or college and started their families by their early 20s. Today, it seems kids aren’t grown up without our support until mid to late 20s. Add the pandemic to the mix, and I’ve read that more adult children than ever have moved back in with mom and dad.
Senior prom–the kids got together in person.
Several articles published reference a study by San Diego State University professor of psychology Jean M. Twenge. She studied millions of kids to come up with the fact that millennials are taking longer to grow up than previous generations. Twenge doesn’t make a judgment on whether that’s good or bad, she just states it as a fact.
In a talk I attended a few years ago for my daughter’s college, in one of the sessions led by an Associate Vice President of Student Affairs, Psychologist Kari Ellingson said the same thing. She said when we were young, kids matured into adults at age 19, 20 and 21. Today, those numbers are delayed to 26, 27 and 28.
In an article from the New York Times, called “The curse of the helicopter parent” Twenge and her study are cited:
New York – Parents may still marvel at how fast their children grow up, but a new study finds that US teenagers are maturing more slowly than past generations.
In some ways, the trend appears positive: high school children today are less likely to be drinking or having sex compared with their counterparts in the 1980s and 1990s.
But they are also less likely to go on dates, have a part-time job or drive – traditional milestones along the path to adulthood.
So is that slower development “good” or “bad”? It may depend on how you look at it, the researchers say.
The findings, published online in the journal Child Development this week, are based on surveys done between 1976 and 2016.
Together, they involved more than 8 million US children in the 13-19 age group.
Over those years, the study found, teenagers gradually became less likely to try “adult” activities – including drinking, having sex, working, driving, dating and simply going out (with or without their parents).
By the 2010s, only 55% of high school seniors had ever worked for pay – versus roughly three-quarters of their counterparts in the late 1970s to the 1990s.
Similarly, only 63% had ever been on a date. That compared with 81% to 87% of high school seniors in the 1970s through 1990s.
In the San Diego Tribune, contact reporter Bradley J. Fikes wrote: “Teens are growing up more slowly — and they seem OK with it.”
Mid- to -late teens are delaying the classic milestones of adulthood, namely working, going out without their parents, driving, dating, having sex, and drinking alcohol, according to four decades of surveys reviewed for the study, led by San Diego State University professor of psychology Jean M. Twenge.
Today’s 18-year-olds exhibit similar milestone behaviors as did 15-year-olds in the late 1970s, Twenge said. Moreover, they’re mostly doing this voluntarily — parents aren’t imposing this delayed independence.
The spread of smartphones, which allow teens to socialize from the safety of their homes, is part of the explanation, said Twenge. The author of “Generation Me,” she has released a new book on the generation born after 1995 called “iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood.”
When I look back on my teenage years compared to my kids, we had a whole lot more freedom. We were out all the time and our parents didn’t seem to care where we were. In fact, my parents were enjoying weekends on our boat or at the cabin and would leave my brother and me alone when we were teens. The same was true for a lot of my friends’ parents, as well. They didn’t keep track of us on a minute by minute basis. They also didn’t track us on “find my iPhone.” There weren’t any cell phones to call home and they just said to be home by a certain time.
I wonder how much influence our technology has today over our kids not growing up so fast? They aren’t getting together with friends to interact in person. They can do that from the comfort of their own bedrooms. Plus, they have all the entertainment they can consume, right on their iPhones. We helicopter parents keep a close eye on our kids and we know where they are at all times. By contrast, our parents told us to get outside and not come back until dinner. Between us and iPhones, our kids aren’t getting real-world experiences.
Everyone I knew growing up had some sort of part-time job in high school–even if it was working for their family’s business. I worked in my dad’s dental office and my brother bagged groceries at the local Safeway. Today, I know of very few kids with part-time jobs. My own son worked several jobs, but he was one of the few. He was an assistant lifeguard, then a coach for our team. He tutored in math and was paid to maintain a website. Very few of my kids’ friends had jobs after school. Teens today must not need to earn money because we are providing for all their needs and wants.
On the bright side, it’s good our kids aren’t running around at night unsupervised, drinking and having sex as teens. Also, they actually like hanging out with their parents!
Hanging out together in the summer.
Here’s a recent story I wrote that included psychologist Jean M. Twenge.
What are your thoughts about why kids are not growing up as fast as we did?