Does Everyone Need College?

The traditional college experience is on hold. I know kids who may not be going to campus until next year — as in 2021. Many college students can take courses online and but aren’t getting a break with the cost. Also, I especially feel for student-athletes who don’t get to compete in their sports. After years of hard work and dedication, they must feel disappointed or even robbed. Hopefully the world will get back to normal and this will be a blip in the rearview mirror. I wrote the following story a few years ago questioning if everyone really needs college?

 

IMG_0728Why spend $120,000 for a state university or $400,000 for a private school out of your
life-savings or saddle your kids with debt? What are the kids getting in return? A bill that will take them 30 years to pay off?

I have several friends whose children are going off to college next year. They have opted for a year of work to save, two years of community college out of town, or staying at home and going to the local community college. Then they will transfer to a UC school.      I was always a fan of the four-year experience because that’s how I was raised. But, this makes practical sense. Why take out a loan as big as a mortgage for an education that you can at least cut the costs in half?

Several years ago I wrote some thoughts about the college experience and why so many kids fail or drop out. With the high costs of college it doesn’t make sense to waste that money if your kids aren’t ready. Here’s my thoughts:

I wonder why so many kids fail college? I was shocked to read a statistic from the ACT that 50% of freshman students do not return for their second year. Then, 30% of those remaining, do not graduate within five years!

Why? What can we do to better prepare our kids for college? There is so much pressure on our kids to get into great schools. You’d think with the great expense, and all their work to get in, it would be a breeze once they are there. But, it’s not.

My daughter and friend on a recruit trip.

My daughter and friend on a recruit trip.

Here’s my list of why I think kids fail their freshman year:

ONE

Too many kids go to college. I do not think everyone should go. When I was in high school the majority of students did not continue their education past high school. They were able to get jobs, support themselves and their families without a college education. There are many trades and careers that can support families like plumbers, contractors, electricians, hair dressers, masseuses, etc. Today, a college degree has become the norm and standard. There are many kids who would be better served to work for a few years, and then decide if they want to go to college. By having everyone go, and not everyone is equipped to go, some kids are set up for failure.


TWO

High school doesn’t prepare kids for college. The work is often spoon-fed by teachers in little lumps of daily assignments and reading. Having a syllabus with a couple dates on it and no day-to-day requirements is more what college is like. It takes discipline, motivation and self-determination to not procrastinate but to work and study in advance of deadlines.

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A gorgeous location. UCSB.

THREE

We do too much. As helicopter, hovering parents, we are afraid to let our kids fail. We don’t let our kids learn from their mistakes. They need to have more chores, part-time jobs or something to do besides homework. Some of the crazy, heavy AP schedules don’t allow for real-life experiences. Plus, we cater to our kids’ every need—even to the point of helping them complete projects or assignments. My conversation with four-time Olympian and former University of Texas head coach Jill Sterkel included some great advice that you can read on SwimSwam here. She believes in letting kids work out their problems in a less high-stakes environment. We need to give them room to do this.

FOUR

Millennials mature later, according to Kari Ellingson, Vice President at the University of Utah. I attended a talk by her at orientation with my daughter. I wrote more about her talk here. According to Ellingson, “It used to be people matured around 19, 20, 21. Today it’s 26, 27 or 28.” It’s no wonder they can’t handle the many demands of laundry, getting their own food, studying, etc. Maybe our kids are not mature enough to handle the responsibilities of college at age 18?

What do you think are the reasons why so many kids fail in college? What alternatives have you seen to high college costs? 

My kids not wanting me to take their pic on the UCSB campus.

My kids not wanting me to take their pic on the UCSB campus.

Taking a well-deserved break from crisis

IMG_6079We escaped the heat and the change of surroundings had a healing effect. I was getting riddled with anxiety sitting at home in 120 degrees with just my husband and zero outside socialization. Every day seemed the same and I didn’t know what month we were in, let alone if it was a weekend or a weekday. Way before COVID-19 hit the world, we planned a trip and booked an Airbnb in Park City, UT. We stayed there last summer, too, and I loved the fresh air, outdoor activities like hiking and how good I felt. It’s a great escape from the desert summer.

A week before our trip, the homeowner of the Airbnb cancelled our trip! He was taking this summer to remodel due to few rentals. At first I was devastated and then thought it might be for the best. Maybe it wasn’t the time to leave our home in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis. But, in the end I looked for another place and found something that would fit our needs. I needed a quiet private place for my husband to work, space for me to write and an extra bedroom for my daughter and any other family members who might join us.

As a person who literally hates to drive, strangely this time I was looking forward to a road trip. It’s a 10 1/2 hour drive, but easy with very little traffic and great views. The only rough spot is driving through Las Vegas, but this year there wasn’t the usual bumper to bumper traffic. I packed a cooler with sandwiches for the drive and off we went.

I love Park City. It was exactly the break I needed. At an altitude of 7,000 feet, it took us a few days to acclimatize. Everyday we hiked the trails on the ski slopes and walked to Main Street along the stream and forested path. I had a pool a few steps away where I swam laps. And we adventured up the chair lifts in Deer Valley. Of course, it wasn’t until the second to last day that we ventured in the hot tub in our courtyard. Wow! That would have been something to try out after the mountain hikes!

I can’t wait to go back next summer and do more exploring. I’m so thankful for the mental and physical break this vacation gave me. It was needed more than ever this year.

 

Chair lift ride in Deer Valley, UT

 

5 Things Parents Need to Know Before Kids Leave for College

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Looking back on college orientation with my daughter, I remember some of the highlights. The beauty of the Wasatch Mountains. An impressive campus. Friendly people and making new friends that I have kept today. Here’s a look back to that moment in time:

I spent two days in the pristine mountainside beauty of Salt Lake City with clear blue skies and intense sunshine. Parents attended most meetings without their kids, who were similarly engaged with topics angled for teenage consumption.summerFun_FrisbeeGolf_LBoye_067

Having been to college orientation three years prior with my firstborn, I didn’t think I’d learn anything new. However, in “Supporting your College Student” presented by Dr. Kari Ellingson, Associate Vice President, Student Development, I wished I’d heard her advice before I sent my first child to college.

“I think she’s met my son — the one who’s going to be a senior in college,” I whispered to a mom next to me. (He’s also the son who tried to give away the cat on FB.)

She answered, “No, I’m sure she’s talking about my oldest daughter!”

What did Dr. Ellingson have to say that we wished we heard the first time around?imgres-10First…

Children go through changes. But, if it’s your first child going to college, or your last, you will be going through changes, too. We are in the process of changing our relationship from parent to child to adult to adult. We go through transitions, pushing them away and holding them close.

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A student who works 10 to 15 hours on campus will do better in school than someone who works off campus, or doesn’t work at all. Students working on campus are making connections with the campus, student, and staff. They are completing their identity as a student first.

Students born from 1980 to 2000 are known as millennials. They don’t like to suffer —  they love nice things — and they don’t mind working for them. Unfortunately, this can interfere with their education. So, if they want spending money, suggest a job on campus.

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Cell phones according to Dr. Ellingson, are “the world’s longest umbilical cords.” Some students call home 5, 6, 7 times a day. In our day, we waited in line for the phone down the hall on Sundays — when long distance was cheaper — and horror of all horrors — there wasn’t such a thing as a cell phone!

Don’t let your child’s crisis become your crisis. Let them problem solve. Ellingson’s example was a daughter who called her mom and said, “I flunked my midterm. The professor hates me…” After consoling her crying daughter, the mother called back later with more advice. The daughter was like, “Huh? What are you talking about? Everything’s fine.”

images-5Fourth …
They are learning to become themselves. Making new friends. They will be grieving and letting go of high school friendships, but will build new and deeper ones. A main developmental issue is finding their identity. Their core stays the same, which has been developing over the past 18 years. But, how they express themselves changes.

They may try on new identities by copying new friends to see how it fits or feels. You may say to yourself, and hopefully not to your child, “Who the hell is this?” Then you meet their new friend, and say to yourself, “Oh, now I see who this is!”

Intellectually they are still developing. They see things differently than before. They love to debate. They will try out their debating skills, or how to express themselves by choosing opinions contrary to yours, even if it isn’t what they truly believe.

And Fifth…imgres-2
Dr. Ellingson talked about independence: “Their first steps as a toddler are towards you. Every step after that is running away from you.”

They need to discover how to be on their own — and this is one of their fears. Delayed maturation is common. It used to be people matured around 19, 20, 21. Today it’s 26, 27 or 28. They will say to you “Leave me alone!” Then, “bail me out!” This is normal. The pendulum will swing back and forth.

Just remember to love them, guide them, but let them figure it out. The more we solve their problems, the more we delay their growth into independent, responsible adults.

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And one more thing…”GO, UTES!!!”


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Tips for Parenting and Stress During the Pandemic

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Morning walks help keep me grounded.

I found my self getting anxious a few weeks ago. It’s a weird fluttery feeling in my chest with my heart beating wildly, my breath getting short and my palms sweating. Why does it come on like that out of the blue? I think it’s all the uncertainty around us. Will my husband ever go back to his office to work? Will we ever get to go to the movies again? Will I have swim practice with my friends? When will this end? Right when we think it’s getting better, it gets worse. The number of cases are going up. We don’t know what will happen with the economy. I have three of my closest friends diagnosed with breast cancer during COVID-19. Yes, there’s lots to be anxious about.

We were fortunate to have our daughter come home to work remotely. She had just moved into a new apartment and didn’t really know her two new roommates. They had a 24-hour notice to shelter in place, so she headed home. I remember her deciding to go to the hardware store to purchase lumber for a bed frame she was making. The very first day she was with us, she was intent on getting supplies. “We could shut down here tomorrow,” she said. She was correct. The next day we were told to shelter in place.

I work in my son’s room and my husband works in our master bedroom. Our daughter took over the guest room. We were a busy bunch until she got laid off due to COVID-19. That was stressful in itself. Also, having a grown up adult in the house took time for us to get used to. We managed to get along most of the time and it’s a three-month period I’ll treasure. Without the pandemic, she wouldn’t have come home and spent time as a young adult. She’s back to building her life away from us, interviewing for jobs.

I read an interesting article called Parenting, stress and COVID-19 by Annie Keeling in The Union, a website with news for Nevada County, Calif.

Here’s an excerpt:

THE EFFECTS OF STRESS

Despite feeling close to their children during the COVID-19 pandemic, 61% of parents say they have shouted, yelled, or screamed at them at least once over the past two weeks, according to a new report from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. (https://www.psychcongress.com/article/covid-19-stress-taking-toll-parent-child-relationships)

“For a large number of parents, financial concerns, other worries, social isolation, loneliness, and sadness are getting in the way of parenting,” said lead author Shawna J. Lee, PhD, an associate professor of social work, who compiled the report with coauthor Kaitlin Ward, a doctoral student.

This uncertain experience is asking a lot of parents: full-time playmate, teacher and caregiver can take its toll. What can you do to help yourself? The first step is recognizing that this is a challenging time and that there are ways to ease the effects of uncertainty and stress.

CALMING TECHNIQUES FOR THE PARENT

Take care of yourself. Parents know that they must do this so they can be a good parent, but it’s often easier said than done. The Power of Three is essential: eat well, exercise, get sleep. Put a post-it reminder on your mirror, by the stove, by the screens in your home. Check in with yourself each evening. How did you do with your Power of Three today?

Take a breath. Or five. Research shows that it takes more than one deep breath to really affect the parasympathetic nervous system. Five deep breaths can change your state.

Reach out to others. Phone calls, Zoom, and yard dates with other adults- physically distanced on lawn chairs — are a few ways.

Take (even a tiny) break. Try splashing cold water on your face, stepping outside or planning a parenting partner hand-off. Identify what you might do to take a break before the day starts. This helps our psyche to anticipate the relief that is coming.

List healthy coping skills for yourself and your family. Avoid behaviors such as excessive alcohol drinking, online gambling or taking drugs. Negative coping mechanisms further compound your stress levels and can make your situation worse in the long run.

The article goes on to describe tips to calm the entire family with lots of fun things to do. Keeling also discusses talking about the pandemic and how that can lead to less stress as well.

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My daughter bungee swimming in our backyard. It’s hard but it does help with stress.

Have you had stress or anxiety during the pandemic and what are you doing to fight it?

 

Are Helicopter Parents Grounded During COVID-19?

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My favorite place to be a helicopter parent — at the beach.

In a Wall Street Journal article this week called Has Covid Brought an End to Helicopter Parenting? by Anne Marie Chaker, how parenting has changed due to Coronavirus is discussed. Not only are parents working from home, but they don’t have school or childcare to help take care of the kids. The result is relaxed parenting standards, like letting kids go out of the house unsupervised on their bikes and allowing more screen time.

Parents are tired. They are cooped up. They are letting go of their helicopter parenting tendencies. It’s called survival for many. In some ways this is a good thing for our kids, although the increased screen time doesn’t sound like a benefit.

Here’s an excerpt:

Kim Lucasti recently made a parenting decision she never would have permitted before the coronavirus pandemic: She let her 14-year-old daughter ride a bike into town without an adult alongside her.

In the past couple of months, Ms. Lucasti, who lives in Longport, N.J., has given more freedom to her teenage daughter and 12-year-old son. It’s partly because the kids are restless without their usual scheduled activities, and also because she needs space to handle her own tasks. “I have never left my kids alone in the house so much,” she says. Gone are the days of helicopter parenting: “I have let the helicopter down,” she jokes.

Doctors see benefits in giving kids greater independence and freedom to make decisions. It would mark a departure from the hypervigilant approach adopted by many parents since the 1990s, which critics said harmed kids’ ability to develop problem-solving skills, navigate conflict on their own, and create an identity separate from their parents.

But with a less hands-on style come other concerns: Unrestricted screen time, which doctors worry can lead to inactivity, sleep disruption and anxiety. And the pandemic has brought myriad other stresses into family life—a lack of routine, schooling and socialization among them—whose long-term consequences remain to be seen.

About half of 2,067 adults said they are allowing their children to go to bed later (46%), wake up later (51%), and are allowing more screen time (49%), according to a May survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of the University of Phoenix. A separate poll found that nearly 30% of parents said their child-rearing styles are at least somewhat or much more relaxed than normal, according to a June survey of nearly 900 parents by Pittsburgh-based consumer-research firm CivicScience.

This parenting sounds like more of throw back to how I was raised. We could leave the house after breakfast, return for a sandwich at lunchtime and the only rule was to be back home at dark. When we lived in town, we played in each other’s yards, and dusk often brought a game of “work up” softball with kids of all ages playing in our dead end street.

In second grade, we moved to “the country” and we’d ride our bikes for miles and miles to visit friends, or go on a scenic loop along the river. Or, my brother and I would be armed with machetes chopping our way through berry brambles to forge a trail and build forts in the woods.

My parents didn’t seem to care where we were as long as we were home for dinner. The one thing mom did have control of when I was very young was screen time. Back then screens were a TV with less than a half dozen stations. Mom allowed two half-hour shows on PBS per day.  I remember the weird feeling at 3 p.m. in the middle of a game of touch football or tag, the neighborhood kids would run home to watch “Dark Shadows.” Of course, we were not allowed to watch that show. Oh well. When we were in junior high, our parents gave up on screen time, too.

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Me and my brother when screen time was limited, but we could play outside all day long.

How has your parenting changed with COVID-19?

When is social media too much for teens?

In today’s COVID-19 world, social media is more important to our children than ever. We need to understand that they need it to keep in contact with friends they can’t see in person. But, we don’t want it to become harmful either.

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My daughter seeking a social media pic.

I’ve wondered for years how social media is affecting our teens, and I’m thankful we never had Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat when I was a kid. I’m also glad it wasn’t a thing when my kids were young. I remember MySpace was introduced when my kids were around middle school aged and a few kids in their Catholic school posted provocative pictures. It didn’t go over well, needless to say.

An article in The Baltimore Sun by Andrea K. Mcdaniels called, Parents’ concern: Is social media bad for teenagers? has quite a few experts and studies weighing in. They’ve found good and bad outcomes, but it seems to me the bad ones outweigh the good.

The list of problems with social media includes sleeping problems, depression, anxiety, eating disorders and suicide. Does anyone see a problem with this trend? I’ve written about my concerns about social media and how it affects on kids here.

Have you ever had a relaxing day at the beach and watched young teens posing for that perfect Instagram pic? It’s quite funny to watch from a distance. I mean who goes to the beach with perfect hair and makeup? Not me! I prefer a big hat, a ponytail and a good book, thank you very much.

 

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Mirage

Where I live, we had a phenomenon called Desert X, a series of outdoor art installations that appeared in the Spring. One I call “The Selfie House” in reality is called “Mirage.” It’s a house installed with mirrors inside and out. It attracts young women dressed in bizarre outfits with friends with the sole purpose of getting a huge volume of social media clicks. The Los Angeles Times wrote about Mirage here.

Here’s a snippet from the article “Parents’ concern: Is social media bad for teenagers?”

“A study published earlier this year by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine with support from the National Institutes of Health found that the more time young adults spent on social media, the more likely they were to have problems sleeping and to experience symptoms of depression.

“Another study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that the incidence of major depressive incidents has increased dramatically among teens, particularly among girls, and that cyber-bullying may be playing a role.

“At American University, researchers found a link between social media use and negative body image, which can lead to eating disorders.”

 

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Mirage, the selfie house. designed for Desert X.

As parents, what can we do to keep tabs on how social media is affecting our kids?

ONE
Delay when your kids get smartphones.

TWO
Keep an eye on what they’re posting.

THREE
Talk to your kids about how social media is creating issues for many kids.

FOUR
Be involved in your kids’ lives and pick up on cues if things seem off. Maybe social media is behind it.

What suggestions do you have to keep our kids safe from the bad effects of too much social media?

True Confessions of a Former Helicopter Mom

My kids and their teammates at a meet in Irvine years ago.

My kids and their teammates at a meet in Irvine years ago.

There’s a study from BYU that says that helicopter parents are hurting their kids. You can read more about it here.  The study says that even loving parents don’t make up for the damage inflicted by excessive hovering.

I don’t know if I’d call myself a helicopter parent or not. My kids would probably say yes, but as one swim coach told my daughter, we are far from the worst parents he’s met.

To try and determine my status I took this quiz from the Christian Science Monitor.

I earned Terra Firma.

13e7cdf4346de40aade6db55399ea91eMy two kids are so different, I question if I parented them differently? I feel like I helicoptered my first born, and was more laid back with the second. The result is one more dependent and one independent.

I used to boil my son’s binky’s after they hit the ground for a good five minutes. I’ll never forget that smell of burning rubber when the water boiled away. The joke my husband used to tell was that with our second child, I asked the dog to “fetch” the binky.

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Binky’s

When my son was born, I worked on my writing and PR business from home. I thought I could full-time parent and work simultaneously. I didn’t take into consideration that clients would want to me run over for meetings without notice.

Then, Robert went mobile. He was crawling around. Spitting-up on my keyboard.

Nope, full-time work and stay-at-home parenting didn’t work out well for me. I hired a full-time babysitter and then became jealous every day they left for the park.

Three years later, when my daughter was born, the full-time help was gone, and I switched to part-time work. I was able to spend time with the kids, and do a little work, too. It was a nice balance.

Early on, I volunteered in my son’s classroom. I corrected papers, taught computers, writing. Anything they’d let me do. I’ll never forget arguing with his second-grade teacher over the word “artic.” After all, I had drilled him the night before on the continents. “It’s arctic,” the teacher told me. Oops.

My son constantly asked me to bring things to school. Papers he forgot. Projects left behind. I always dropped what I was doing and drove to school—including during his senior year! I can’t believe I did that! I did not do that for my daughter. Mostly, because she never asked.

I helped out with her schooling, too. But, in her elementary school years, it was limited to driving for field trips and special events.

I have one child that now calls whenever there is a problem. His face pops up on my phone and I automatically ask, “What’s wrong?” A broken computer, a fender bender, a parking ticket. It’s always something. Of course, there are exceptions—he aced a test, or got asked to be a guest speaker by the Dean at a fundraiser.

My daughter calls once a week or so to talk to tell me how she’s decorating her room, about a backpacking trip to hot springs, or that she had a good workout.

Maybe the difference between my kids is this: they are entirely two different people, with different goals, personalities, and interests. 

As far as my being a helicopter parent? I think I improved over the years.

My two kids.

My two kids.

How do you define if you’re a helicopter parent? What things have you done that are over the top?