Are Parents Afraid to Talk to Teens about College?

Last fall I spoke to a group of college bound high school students and their parents at Sayre Woods Bible Church in Old Bridge, NJ. I opened my talk by mentioning an article by an admission’s counselor from the University of Pennsylvania. The article is entitled “Fear of Talking” and in it the author observes that parents and teens are not talking about one of the most important transitions in life. He writes, “[The students] talk to me about their hopes for college, but few have the same conversation with their parents.” Why aren’t parents and teens having meaningful conversations about college? Fear. Here’s a quote worth considering:

Parents don’t think they put stress on their teens. Teens disagree. There is an implied understanding, an unarticulated perception of expectation between the teen and parent; but with so much at stake, you would think teens and parents would intentionally sit down and actually talk about what the other thinks, hopes for and expects. Too often you’d be wrong. Teens and parents tend not to talk to each other about this crucial matter because they are afraid to talk.”

Afraid to talk? It isn’t easy engaging teens in conversations about future plans. Teens do tend to be under a lot of stress. They do, in fact, have many pressures, real and perceived, about succeeding in life. And, truth be told, our busy schedules and lives can sometimes limit the opportunities we have to talk to them about things that matter most. But here’s what I’ve discovered: creating space to have meaningful and honest conversations about life after high school often lessens the pressure and stress. It’s not easy, to be sure. And we may not always like what we hear teenagers say. But I think it is better to be on the same page, to know where teens are coming from, than to assume we know what they are thinking.

One of the reasons I am passionate about doing the College Transition Seminar is to be a catalyst for conversation between parents and their kids before heading off to college. The most meaningful feedback I receive is when a parent or teen lets me know that something I said sparked a much needed conversation. My prayer is for that to happen at all of the College Transition Seminars!

Related Resources:

Book: Make College Count: A Faithful Guide to Life and Learning (includes discussion questions)

Article:Silence is Not Golden: The Why and How of Sticky Faith Conversations at Home” by Kara Powell & Brad Griffin

Seminar: The College Transition: Your Purpose, Your Faith, Your Community