Kissed and Off to College

Sending your child off to college is a significant life change in the evolution of being a parent. It marks the time at which your child moves away from home and supposedly enters the adult world. Your child is no longer at home and you begin the ‘empty nest era’ of parenting. It’s time to let your child spread her wings, fly, and experience the world on her own. A myriad of questions bombard you. Did I do all I could as a parent to prepare my child? Is she ready to be on her own? Will she be safe? And so on and so on… In a way, this becomes the time in which we are delivered a report card on our parenting. Clearly, not every child goes to college, and, in fact, only 25% of college freshman entering a four-year university complete a four-year college education. Since most of our high school graduates do not complete college, college per se, should not be the assessment tool to determine whether or not you have done your job as a parent. Nonetheless, when children are college bound, this major transition becomes an opportune time for parents to become self-reflective.

I have developed an inventory that parents can self administer to determine whether or not your child is ready for college, or more simply put, ready to go off on his or her own. The parent inventory is called KISSED. I also recommend that your teenager reviews the KISSED inventory and then, parents and teen review their findings.

Kindness - Is your child kind? How does your child solve relationship problems? Has the parent-child relationship evolved to a point where issues can be discussed on an adult mature level?

Independent - Is your child independent? Can your child manage himself/herself effectively without guidance? Can you trust that your child is making healthy decisions?

Self-Sufficient - Is your child self-sufficient? Has your child developed interests and avocations outside the family? Can he/she take care of the daily business necessary to live a healthy life (for example: financial, dietary, and social responsibilities)?

Educated - Is your child well educated? Did your child take school seriously? Does your child talk about academic ambitions and do they match his/her performance in high school? If your child’s plans do not include college, has your child learned to take direction from authority and be responsible for completing tasks?

Determined and Dedicated - Is your child determined? Does your child have the fortitude to handle and endure significant life changes? Is your child dedicated? What interests drive your child? Is he/she passionate about his/her interests?

When parents have considerable doubts regarding the above inventory, they tend to pull the reigns in before their child leaves to college or leaves home. The result is added tension in the parent-child relationship and negatively affects the departing process. One way to address your concerns and potentially avoid increased tension is to engage your child in a dialogue reviewing the KISSED inventory.

I have worked for many years with high schools and teenagers regarding the transition from high school to college, employment, peace corps, and the like. With the teenagers, I asked them “did you KISS your parents today.” We reviewed the inventory and I explained to them, “if you are genuinely kind to your parents and demonstrate independence and self-sufficiency in your daily lives, your parents are more apt to ‘let go’ of you in this transition in your life. Parents will believe they have done their job.” I have adapted the KISS inventory I gave teenagers to become the KISSED inventory for parents.

During this time of year when high school graduates make choices about their next step in life, it is important to remember: Have you KISSED your child lately, and, as well, has your child given you a KISS?