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Should you post about where your child is going to college?: #Decisionday dilemmas

If you are in a community with lots of college bound kids you may have noticed a few (or a few hundred) shares in your timeline recently about where seniors were accepted at college and where they plan to attend. In Chicago, where I live, families are also posting about acceptances to high school.

This can get tricky–for kids who may not want their parents to post, for young people who won’t be attending their “dream school” and for anyone who is feeling anxious about the future. Especially after a very tough year of pandemic high school.

Admissions season can be hard for parents who have young adults on a different path. Maybe your son or daughter is considering trade school, an apprenticeship, community college or heading into the workforce. Maybe their gap year will be an epic year of service or maybe they are planning to work and save while they figure things out.

If you have a teen looking at credit recovery after a rough year of remote school, know that you are not alone. And so many teens have had their progress upended by a mental health crisis. There are also many families that don’t have tuition money right now who are having to make alternate plans.

Some parents have told me they wish other parents just wouldn’t post about college choices. Young people have told me their parents’ posts make them cringe. Many of the teens I spoke with are very sensitive about bragging and concerned about making friends feel bad. They have been thoughtful about letting friends know one on one, especially if they are applying to the same schools. High school students are also very supportive of friends who don’t get in. We can learn from their example.

I spoke to Julie Jargon about this for the Wall Street Journal. Often, teens have had more social media experience than their parents and use Instagram and other apps in a more nuanced way. Some applicants also seek solace and commiseration in the genre of college rejection Tik Tok.

Here are a few suggestions about getting through this season to save for next year:

1) Consent is everything. Most importantly–as with any social media post– but especially in the face of big deal news–get permission. If they say no, just don’t post.

2) Timing is important. Has your child shared with the folks they want to tell? Don’t steal their thunder.

3) Consider the audience. We are all hungry for good news. I am not suggesting that you hold out on grandparents who are eagerly awaiting updates, but take a moment to consider: Who really needs to know? If it is just family and close friends, can you simply send a text or jump on FaceTime?

4) Don’t share til they are sure. If your teen hasn’t decided, sharing the list of possibilities may create pressure for them, as people may ask them about these different schools. Also, posting each acceptance one by one may be a bit much for your followers.

5) Have empathy for yourself and others! Parents are going through a lot right now, and even in a non-pandemic year, sending teens out into the world is emotionally fraught. Over-posting may not be the best way to deal with anxiety, but…have compassion and feel free to use the “unfollow for 30 days” feature or something along those lines if someone’s posts are making you feel stressed. And have empathy for that person’s teen, who may be cringing (or blissfully ignorant) about parental posting.

6) Unplug and take a break. If you or your child is stressed by the “seniors on Instagram” that some high schools create, or the flurry of sweatshirt-wearing, pennant waving posts….take a break from social media. Go outside! Ride your bike. Find a way to unplug from mid April to mid May at least. See above about unfollowing the folks who are getting to you.

7) Remember life is complicated! Some 17-year-olds may seem to have their future planned out. Of my adult friends, I have one or two who had the correct guess about their adult career path at that age. Many of us are in careers that didn’t exist when we were 17. Your undecided kid who can admit they are not sure what they want to do is being honest with themselves and with you. It will be OK.

Finally, congratulations. We’ve almost made it through this tough school year.
Whether you pandemic homeschooled, masked up for in-person, or managed remote school…You are here! Whether your child got good grades or will have to do summer school… You are here! Our families, our communities and our world have been through a traumatic experience. And it isn’t over.

If you are reading this, then you are lucky enough to still be here. So, take a moment to breathe in and out.

Don’t scroll if it is hurting you. If you do scroll, send empathy towards all who are posting and all who are not posting. We all need it.