S.L. of Williston Park, NY writes:

With the senior year of high school yet to begin (I'm counting the days), our daughter -- an otherwise well-rounded honors student -- is driving her Mom and Dad bonkers. We say "up," she says "down." We say "no," she sulks, broods, and exhibits defiance in every way. Is this normal? The stress is almost unbearable, and we have yet to begin applying to colleges. [I can only imagine!] What can we do to achieve detente?

The College Whisperer responds:

Define "normal." ;-)

If you say "tomehto" and she says "tomahto," I'd suggest an intervention. Short of coming to fisticuffs, however, it would appear that the disconcerting behavior -- a scenario no doubt repeated every hour on the half hour in households across America -- is not that unusual.

Indeed, assuming you have read the manual (now on sale in the College Connection gift shop), as well as the fine print in the union contract by which children and their parents are bound (that compulsory arbitration is a minefield), you would know that "acting out" in a contrarian manner is all a part of the sport.

So, put your game face on in Williston Park -- and elsewhere across this great land -- for the battle of the college-bound is just getting underway!

Yes, it's that strange and bewildering combination of hormonal rage (theirs and ours) and genetic disposition to rebel (them against us). The stuff that keeps therapists busy well into the wee hours. Teens anxious to have their independence from the parental units, while awkwardly trying to hang on to the security of the womb. Parents wanting their children to achieve at least a modicum of independence, while struggling with the notion that they may not long hold on to the last vestiges of childhood.

Add to the mix the angst of college admissions -- the applying, the essays, the waiting, the anticipation, the paying -- and the cauldron doth boil over, if not regularly, then certainly, on occasion.

The College Whisperer's wife has a theory that some may take comfort in. The squabbling is simply God's way of telling parent and child alike that it is time (and okay) to let go.

Being of a more secular vein, I look at the ensuing struggle as an opportunity -- for teens and parents alike -- to strengthen familial bonds, using the senior year of high school as a time for reflection (accompanied by some necessary deflection) and personal growth.

Easier said than done, especially when tempers flair and that short fuse is about to burn down, igniting the nitro.

Take solace that you are not alone in this process, nor in your feelings. The emotions will run high on both ends. Try not to let them get the best of you.

Take a deep breath, or several. Relax.

Keep a sense of perspective, and, of at least equal import, a sense of humor. The world is not coming to an end. Your child will be off to college, yes, but s/he will be home often, longing for Mom's cooking or Dad's off-the-wall jokes. And kids, the countdown clock will soon run. You'll be off to campus, and, no, Mom and Dad won't be perched upon your dorm's doorstep every weekend. [Every other weekend, perhaps, but not every weekend! ;-)]

There will be times of joy and moments of sorrow. Laughter, loud and resounding, and tears (even the kind that crocodiles are said to cry). All a part of growing up, moving on, and (believe me, this is the sweetest part, as you will one day come to realize), coming home again.

Stress? You bet. It goes with the territory. You can, however, with a little work and a load of empathy (on both ends), relieve the tension and ease the transition.

Don't sweat the small stuff, especially this applying to college silliness. Laugh in the face of adversity -- as well as in the face of the folks at the Common App and College Board. It all works out, and, typically, for the best. Enjoy one another's company. Be there for each other. Shoot some hoops. Play Scrabble®. Share and polish off a gallon of Forbidden Chocolate ice cream. [Worry about that Freshman 15 some other time.]

Perhaps the best advice can be taken from the Broadway show RENT. There truly is No Day But Today. Live in the moment. One day at a time. Life is too short to go tit for tat. And this, too (like the SAT, AP exams, and having your wisdom teeth yanked), shall pass!

E-mail The College Whisperer at info@TheCollegeWhisperer.com.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of The College Whisperer.
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