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Daughter Not Taking Junior College Seriously

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: Our 18-year-old daughter has just started a local junior college. Due to class scheduling, she was unable to secure the classes she needed to become a full-time student. Therefore, she attends school 3 days a week (9 units).

She is a former private-school student who had challenging classes and not much extra time. Now she has a much freer schedule and, with one exception, doesn't seem to be passionate about her classes.

How do we ensure that she take school seriously, although her schedule is light?

A: I don't understand why your daughter could not enroll as a full-time student because of "class scheduling." In college, students rarely get every course they want, especially as freshmen. So they make do, and, with the aid of the college's academic counseling staff, full-time students put together the best schedule of classes possible, always taking into account their future collegiate course of study. So first, I would ask for a meeting with the appropriate college administrators to determine how your daughter's status might be changed to full-time with some creative scheduling and course selection decisions.

I would be pleased that your daughter is "passionate" about even one of her courses. I have met very few college freshmen who are thrilled about all their first semester courses. Her passion about her courses is not the best barometer with which to measure the worth and value of these courses. She may not want to divulge much to you about her courses because she considers herself a college student now and part of her being a "grown-up" college student is her not needing to "report in" to her parents about her new independent adult life.

If she is attending junior college and still living at home with you, it may be harder to convince herself that her new independent life has really begun. It may not feel that different than high school in many areas. Her schedule is light because she is not taking a full course load. Was your daughter disappointed at taking only three courses? It's possible that she might be relieved to have a schedule that is not as consuming as it was in private school.

I think it would be good to have some open-ended, non-blaming, non-pressured discussions with her about your expectations of college life for her and her own expectations of college life. They may differ and you may already be communicating to her that she is not living up to the high standards of academic excellence and enthusiasm that you expect of her. Don't put her on the defensive. Let's see what she really wants from going to college right now, taking time to ask about and to respect her priorities, goals, and concerns. Listen to her -- don't lecture or make this an inquisition. Put yourself in her shoes and remember who she is temperamentally. Freshman year is a new, often confusing time of life for kids.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.


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