Tis the season for friends and relatives to safely gather together or via a Zoom call and with it comes an overwhelming desire by all to pepper your teen with questions about their college plans.

To make it clear to everyone, a high school student posted her answers on the front door and on her Zoom background so she could avoid answering the same questions over and over because college talk is stressful.

Below is a short list of what parents should do to help steer the holiday conversations away from a focus on college talk.

1.) Set up a college-free talk zone and communicate this rule to friends and relatives. Grandparents may view this as an innocent way to connect with their grandkid, but peppering them with college questions really stresses teens out, especially those who are still staring at rapidly approaching January deadlines.

College-bound teens needs a break from thinking or talking about their plans, and would really appreciate a conversation about almost anything else. So help steer the college talk your teen is having with Aunt Moira towards something else.

2.) No college talk in hushed whispers about your teen’s college plans. Trust me, all teens can sniff out a conversation about them from a mile away. If you forget this rule, see rule #1.

Parents, please remember being humble and quiet about your child’s college applications is much appreciated by them. It also lessens the chance of any embarrassment that comes further down the line if you’ve trumpeted how absolutely sure you are that your child is getting into every school they applied to and they don’t. Admissions to a highly selective, brand-name, bumper sticker university isn’t in the bag until your teen is holding their admission letter.

3) Take a deep breath and wait for the college acceptance letters to roll in.

Be excited if your child is excited. That first acceptance letter is a huge relief to your teen. No matter how accomplished they are the universal feeling is “I’m going to college!” If denial or deferment letters come through keep your emotions in check. It hurts to see your child disappointed but, it’s even more upsetting for them to see your sorrow and feeling they’ve disappointed you. If you need a reminder of why not getting into the big name school you hope for them isn’t as important as you think, read this.

With winter break right around the corner remember it’s just that—a break, from all things college. Help your teen keep this journey in perspective. Remind them that their success lies within them and not at the school that did or didn’t accept them.

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