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5 Steps Parents Can Take Before The Transition to College

5 Steps Parents Can Take Before The Transition to College

One minute they’re young and fragile and you’re rocking them to sleep, and the next they are ready and raring to flee the nest with as much excitement and vigor as they once had for Chuck-E-Cheese and unicorns. Life is fleeting, and nothing is more evident of this than when your child goes away to college.

For a lot of us, thoughts of having our child stay close to home for college, maybe even taking online courses so they don’t have to go far away, has crossed our minds. As parents, the role we really need to play is more supportive and less overbearing at this point. You can and should help your child be aware of all the options available to them by looking at a list of all the schools in your state or taking a college tour together, but in the end the decision needs to be their own. Once I realized that, I avoided my daughter wanting to strangle me for not allowing her the freedom she desired at this point in her life and I was able get the reassurance and comfort that she was ready and able to be on her own. Here are the five things I found necessary to prepare both of us for the transition ahead.

Managing Finances

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    I am a true believer that there should be a serious focus on finances and managing a good budget in the junior and senior years of high school. Generally, kids graduate high school with no knowledge of how to manage their funds on their own. Whether you are able to help your child out financially while they are in college or not, if they do not know how to stretch that money, I can almost guarantee there will be a call for more finances or they will decide to take out loans to supplement the help — and spend that carelessly as well.

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    We live in a digital age, and trying to get kids to do anything on pen and paper has proven to be difficult. When I was going over a budget with my daughter, we did find several great budget apps that she could download right to her phone so that she always had them at her disposal. They also allowed her to begin saving for the trips she wanted to take.

    I didn’t have to pester her about her money situation (as much) and she was able to take control of her own finances and take that road trip to Havasu Falls like she wanted. Win win.

    Tech Support

    You don’t have to be tech savvy to have experienced the heartbreaking realization that you just lost everything you were working on because the computer failed. The blue screen of death is the real deal and is, unfortunately, something that many college students have a story about.

    Imagine this: it’s finals week and you’re putting the finishing touches on a huge paper — when suddenly, the computer crashes…

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    Having a backup plan is always important. Purchasing not one but two external drives for your newly attending freshman is a huge step in avoiding the looming computer-crashing story. Not only does it help them to keep their computer fairly clear of unnecessary data so that it runs smoother and quicker, but it allows them to save work often so nothing gets lost in the shuffle.

    I say two externals because, as any parent knows, there is a good chance that our efforts to help with tech issues could be overlooked and used for other things. One external for schoolwork and the other for music and entertainment. A work and play set of external drives helped to keep my recent graduate organized and generally on task.

    Basic Life Skills

    From a very young age, I had my daughter help me sort laundry and do household chores. I allowed her to do her own shopping and make dinner once a week at home while in high school so I was confident in her abilities to fend for herself, but one day I got a call asking me how to put gas in her car. She was dead serious and I didn’t know whether to laugh at the idea of her standing there confused trying to pump gas in her car or be upset with myself for failing to show her such a simple task. In the end, we both got a good laugh out of it, but it was a good reminder before she was off to college about the need to revisit even the little things before they are off on their own.

    Whether we think our young adults are ready or not, double checking whether they are capable of basic life skills may sound silly, but it is very necessary. Do they know how to do their own laundry without shrinking everything or turning it another color? Can they cook decent meals for themselves? Do they know how to put gas in their car? These are all very valid questions that a lot of us never think to ask because we are the ones that take care of these aspects of their lives.

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    Heart to Heart

    It seems as though there is always a headline about young college student fatalities from drunk driving and assaults on college campuses — sexual and otherwise. Overlooking the very real possibility that something could happen, in my opinion, is irresponsible. A conversation about drinking and driving is one your child probably won’t enjoy but will appreciate.

    Talking to my daughter about safety and smart choices before she went off to college lifted a weight off my shoulders and, whether she admits it or not, she walked away more aware of herself and her potential circumstances. Even in this day and age, reaffirming to young ladies that it is okay to say no and that her body is not a barter system is necessary. Dinner and a movie doesn’t equate to owing anyone anything. You’re not a tease or a prude, you’re a strong young woman (or young man). For every 1,000 women on a college campus 35 are raped every year. These are very real numbers, so educating our sons and daughters about the facts is prudent.

    Having this conversation before my daughter left for college helped me to reign the stress in. Knowing that she understood kept me from the checking in with her as much as I probably would have otherwise.

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      Financial Aid

      The biggest source of stress for a lot of people when starting out in college is working out the financial aid information. For a lot of first year college students, the paperwork is extremely daunting. Set aside time to go over this with your child, either from home or with someone in the financial aid department at the university. This will not only take added stress off your child but it will give you an opportunity to speak with someone who can explain in detail the different kinds of loans available and how that process works.

      These five things made the transition from home to college living much easier on all of us. I felt more confident in her ability to take care of herself, which made me less of the overbearing, concerned, badgering mother I know I can be. We’re parents, we worry. It’s what we do. Being present without being pushy is what is most important, so that we don’t push so hard that we push them away.

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      Last Updated on January 15, 2021

      7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

      7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

      The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

      Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

      Posture

      First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

      • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
      • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
      • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
      • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

      All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

      Facial Expressions

      Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

      • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
      • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
      • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

      If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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      1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

      A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

      The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

      This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

      2. Relax Your Face

      New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

      The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

      To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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      3. Improve Your Eye Contact

      Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

      The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

      To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

      3. Smile More

      There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

      Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

      4. Hand Gestures

      Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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      It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

      5. Enhance Your Handshake

      In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

      “Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

      It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

      6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

      As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

      Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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      Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

      Final Takeaways

      Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

      If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

      More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

      Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

      Reference

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