College is not for everyone. A student failing classes in college may be giving you the first indication that the path they are on is not the right path for them. If your teen has failed in college, don’t take it personally and don’t jump to conclusions. How we as parents handle this stressful situation can make all the difference in the world.
Here are a few suggestions if your teen is struggling to keep up in college:
It is not your fault.
Your child did not fail out of college because you did not breastfeed them or because you weaned them too soon. It is not because you had that glass of wine somewhere between months five and six of your pregnancy, or forgot to plan their 8th birthday party until the last minute. There are numerous reasons why your teen may have failed out of college, and in order to help them, you need to first stop blaming yourself. Most of all, remember that your teen has his own likes, dislikes, successes and failure that may, or may not jive with what you have accomplished.
Resist the desire to compare your teen to others.
When parents compare their children to others in similar situations, they are doing teens a disservice. We need to stop looking around at what everyone else is doing, at how “successful” everyone else’s children are. Success for our children has nothing to do with anyone else. You may be tempted when your child has failed out of college to compare but resist that urge if you can. We all lead different lives and what is good for one child has no bearing on what is good for another.
Failure can be a blessing in disguise.
Happiness is not related to academic achievement. Life is about learning, growing, evolving, and sometimes we fall down. If your child has failed out of college, it can be a beautiful chance for him to learn, grow and get to know himself. Often it takes becoming uncomfortable to become the person we are meant to be. There may be a whole different path, career, journey waiting for your child. This failure may be an important lesson in how to pick yourself back up when you fall down.
Remember how much pressure your teen is under.
Our teens are under a lot more pressure than we were when we were in college. Admission standards have become more stringent. Our children now need prove they use more of their brains than humanly thought possible, while simultaneously giving their left kidney (if it would help) and volunteering at a nursing home, in between football practice, cello lessons, bussing tables, and learning five languages (breathe). The majority of our kids are trying to just keep their heads above water. If your child fails out of college, he or she may be reaching for a life jacket you never knew they needed.
Failure is a chance to change our definition of success.
Let’s all make it easier for our children to say, “I made a mistake.” We could all use more room to breathe, to question, to get off the zip line to success. To look around and see the beauty of our earth, the blueness of the sky after a sun shower, or to have a belly laugh at something insanely funny. We have all failed at something. Some of us fail earlier in life, others much later. Our children are people, and they will fail, too. Failure is how they learn. Failure is a message. And yes, failure can even be a chance to rethink our choices.
Failure can be a chance for everyone to look at the big picture.
It is not our responsibility when our child fails out of college, but we can help our child see the big picture. Help them to figure out what went wrong. It is not about hiding their failure, or rushing to cover it up. It is about not taking it personally. Failure can be managed best with some space. Help your child learn through their failures, along with their successes. If we make their failures our problem, we take away the lessons. When your child fails out of college, she is already feeling the lessons of life. Do not put additional rocks in her backpack – give her a water bottle and point her in the direction of another path.
Don’t assume. Ask what is going on.
There are a many reasons why your child may fail out of college – too much freedom, lack of discipline. Perhaps they are simply not mature enough for college. It could also be personal. Ask your child what is going on for them. Sometimes failing grades reflect something bigger going on emotionally. Don’t assume because another person’s college experience was fun, that your child feels the same way. Maybe the school is too big? Too small? Too far? Too close? Or maybe, college is just not right for them. Perhaps it was too big of an adjustment and they could not manage it all at once. Two years at a community college or a gap year may be exactly what they need to find themselves, to explore, to travel.
The most important thing to remember is to remain calm. Ask. Listen. Release expectations. Support. Let go, and watch what happens. You just may be surprised that your kid failing out of college was the smartest thing they ever did – for them and for you.