Do you have a high school age daughter?

I do, a freshman, and I know high school will be over before I even know what happened. High school flies by. Clubs, classes, homework, jobs and social lives. That’s a lot to navigate for a teenage girl…and I didn’t even mention BOYS.

Family time? It’s hard enough to squeeze in a decent dinner without all the other proverbial ‘balls in the air’ crashing down; when can you possibly fit in an entire evening together?

As moms, those of us who have seen their daughters head off into the great wide world are keenly aware of this. Make sure she’s prepared – and I don’t mean with the best dorm room essentials that money can buy.

I‘ve sent five kids off to college, two of them are sons and three of them, young women. Were they ready? I certainly did my best, but I’m sure I missed a point or two…hopefully fewer misses as I encouraged my most recent daughter (#5) to spread her wings…but I’m sure during all conversations on many rides home from school and work, something got missed.

So I’ve reached out to my older daughters and a couple of their roommates from college that made it through the roller coaster that is freshman year -and beyond. IMHO, these lovely young women are perfect examples of what our daughters should strive to be as they head off to college.

Here are their thoughts…

1.) Teach her about emotion regulation…(a.k.a. keeping it together ’til Thanksgiving break)

So you’ve gone off to college — ready for your classes, excited about new social opportunities, and pumped about your newfound freedom.

You might also be struck by a ton of less than fun emotions –

Bored out of your mind during 8 am Statistics 101

Nervous because you’re sitting next to a cute dude in 8 am Stats

Terrified for the upcoming midterm after failing to get up for all those 8 am Stats classes

Experiencing a lot of different emotions, sometimes all at the same time, is a normal part of life. All emotions are okay; it’s what we do with them that counts.

Therefore, practice some emotion regulation. By that, I mean our abilities to be aware and accepting of our emotions, tolerating some level of distress, and responding to emotions effectively.

The next time you want to tweet something passive aggressive about your roommate because she wants to blast music at 3 am, keep that frustration in check and consider having a calm conversation with her instead.

The next time you want to sob after the C on the Stats midterm (after being a straight-A student in high school), take a breath, visit the professor during Office Hours, make a plan to study harder next time, and move on.

Feeling stressed? Take a walk, take a break, take the new friend up on her offer to grab lunch, or take a new perspective (it’s only one midterm!). These skills will help you for life. 

~Allison completed her Bachelor’s in Human Development & Psychology from Boston College, her Master’s in Education from Harvard University, and is currently pursuing her P.h.D in Counseling Psychology at Boston College.

2.) Dress and act with modesty

Calm down. 

I am not advocating for a wardrobe solely of Bermuda shorts and turtlenecks (sorry, Daddy). I myself spent most of my college years wearing a leather jacket and the fiercest red lipstick I could find, preferably paired with snakeskin stilettos.

What I am saying, however, is that your decorum, that is how you present yourself to the world, should be worthy of your own dignity as a young woman made in God’s image.

By all means, take pride in your appearance.

Nail that winged eyeliner 

Spring for that french manicure

Been running lately and want to show off those toned legs with a cute skirt? Go for it.

But when you choose what you will wear, or how you will carry yourself, are you doing so as a young woman who knows her own worth? Because I’ve never known a woman who squeezed herself into a skintight minidress because she thought it highlighted her beauty in a manner befitting her dignity.

Similarly, I have never seen a woman drape herself over a man at a party because she wanted him to respect her intellect or admire her sparkling wit. Now, of course, the men are honor-bound to make eye contact and treat women with respect and courtesy regardless of what they’re wearing, but this post isn’t about them. It’s about us women holding ourselves accountable to conduct ourselves in a manner that reflects our own worth.

~Kelly completed Bachelor’s in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and her Master’s in Terrorism, Security, and Society from King’s College, London. She is working in Washinton DC and lives there with her husband, Ryan.

3.) Be ready to have her values questioned

Choose wisely and stick to ‘em. 

Everyone packs a knapsack full of beliefs, morals, and principles from home before heading to college. And when it comes time to unpack your knapsack, some are chosen while others are discarded. For

For me, I chose to unpack all the beliefs I grew up with confidence and pride and display them proudly in my freshman dorm.

Whether it was…

pro-life vs. pro-choice

abstinence vs. the hook-up culture

underaged drinking vs. obeying the law

liberal vs. conservative

religious vs. spiritual

…I held true to my beliefs, not because my parents told me to, but because I had made a conscious choice to make them mine.

Sure, there were times that I had to explain myself to people who thought I was not really embracing the “finding yourself” bit of the college experience, but in the end, I knew I had inquired, challenged, and even questioned myself to arrive at this foundational set of beliefs that I had called my own before the whole college thing happened.

I didn’t feel the need to wait around until college to truly find myself or know what I believe in and why.

So- don’t wait for college to “find your stance” on morals, but establish them so that you can have dialogues with those who see the world through different lenses. Use them to learn, inform, and justify your beliefs, not to preach.

~Esther received both her Bachelor’s in Elementary Education and Human Development and her Master’s in Developmental Educational Psychology from Boston College and is a teacher in Boston.

4.) Be confident enough to be quiet.

Society loves confident girls.

This message is plastered all over every pop culture magazine, reality TV show, and, especially, college campuses.

But what exactly do they mean by confidence?

As a teenager and young adult, I was fortunate enough to be inundated with the message regarding my own self-worth. I was told that I was an intelligent young woman with values that deserved to be respected and opinions that deserved to be heard.

Nevertheless, as I look back on my college experience and the years since, I wish I had understood earlier that “confident” does not mean “loud” or “extroverted” or the “life of the party”. Before I fully accepted that I was introverted and that I was pre-disposed to hate loud concert venues, I found myself at a Nelly concert in college. 

At one point in the show, Nelly called out to the crowd, asking for a “confident girl” to join him up on stage where he asked her to “walk with confidence” (i.e. strut) across the stage in her skin-tight mini-dress as the audience whistled and hollered (please see Kelly’s discussion on dressing with modesty and dignity).  

I remember feeling uncomfortable, but it was not until two years later when I finally accepted that I could be quiet, introverted, AND confident.  Self-worth is tied to confidence and young women must be explicitly taught (and sometimes re-taught because of all the opposing messages in our society) that confidence has nothing to do with how social & outgoing you are, how much people pay attention to you at parties, or how boldly you can strut across a stage. 

Confidence and self-worth have everything to do with being comfortable in your own skin, speaking up for your values, and embracing your own passions, despite what the tabloids tell us. 

~Bridget received her Bachelor’s in Human Development from Boston College and her Master’s in Education from The University of Notre Dame and is a teacher near Boston.

After talking at length with these beautiful, confident young women, these 4 issues were what they collectively decided to be first and foremost in their minds as they reflect on their own experiences while navigating college. 

I hope you find their thoughts helpful as you prepare to send your own daughters off.


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