Dear Family Coach: My daughter is 13. At the end of the academic calendar, her school is going on a four-day class trip to Washington, D.C. She's a homebody and does not want to go. But I think it's important for her confidence, sense of self-worth, etc. I know I can't physically force her to go ... but can I make her go? — Well-Traveled
Dear Well-Traveled: I think you pretty much answered your own question. No, you can't make her go. To start with, there's the logistical problem of how you would physically force a 13-year-old to get on a bus. I'm envisioning a massive scene with your daughter crying, holding on to the car door and feeling embarrassed and afraid. Then there is the issue of the constant calls you would receive at all hours from the chaperones asking for your help because they are out of tools to comfort her. In the worst-case scenario, I imagine a possibility that you end up having to pay for a ticket to visit D.C. in order to pick her up because she has been sent home for uncontrollable hysterics. Is this what you really want for your daughter?
Forcing uncomfortable change on children can backfire. Your daughter's self-worth and confidence will be more damaged by prematurely thrusting her out of the nest. Instead, work on understanding why she is so resistant in the first place. You say your daughter is a homebody. Why is that? Does she have social anxiety? Or is she simply introverted and perfectly happy to chill at home with her folks? Clearly, you value the experience of traveling and being away from home. So do I. But give your daughter time to get to that point. Pushing her will not help her make sustainable changes in her life. Supporting her where she is and working through any anxieties will be a better plan. And if the experience is so important to you, consider becoming a chaperone.
Dear Family Coach: My 16-year-old son is getting ready to apply to colleges, and we are organizing a college tour. He only wants to visit schools that are way out of his reach. When I tell him that he needs to find other choices because he will never get accepted at his choices, he shuts down. He won't even consider other options. What should I do? — College Prep Mom
Dear Mom: You say your son is shutting down. I wonder why? Maybe it's because he has dreams and you are crushing them. So what if his choices of where to visit don't seem like possible options right now? Let him see them anyway. For all you know, those visits might act as inspiration.
Once your son visits and is told by someone other than you that he isn't likely to be accepted at the current moment, he might just work harder. Maybe he will decide to attend summer school to retake a class. Maybe he will take a gap year or start community college for a year or two to build up an impressive GPA. In fact, nothing inspires more determination than seeing the prize at the end of the long road. Don't rob him of that.
After visiting, he might also have a better understanding of what kind of school he wants. Then he can apply to a wide variety of schools, even if he never visited the campuses. He can always go back for a visit to check them out once accepted. At that time, he can make a more informed decision about how he would like to proceed.
Dr. Catherine Pearlman, the founder of The Family Coach, LLC, advises parents on all matters of child rearing. To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.