(OPRAH.com) -- I spent the better part of 20 years as a college student. This was as a result of going to school while working and raising a family.
The pressures were intense at times, compounded by my drive to graduate with the highest GPA possible. What I didn't realize through the entire experience was that, as a well-educated professional in my field, none of my employers would ever ask me what grade I received for any of the classes I took in college.
This has proven to be an important fact to refer to when advising my own daughter. At the first glimpse of a rise in her temperature over the demands and rigors of her college curriculum, I remind her of this truism, and a relaxation effect begins to take hold.
Don't get me wrong, I am not a parent who says, "Hey, don't worry about your grades, as long as you pass." Nor am I unaware of the importance of an impressive transcript should my daughter decide to apply to graduate school.
As the CEO, Bank of Mom, holder of graduate degrees and a professional person, I do have a vested interest in my daughter's achievement and academic success. However, I am a realistic parent and experienced adult who knows better than to ride my daughter about maintaining a 4.0 in college to the detriment of her own health and sanity.
At almost 20, my daughter is facing many developmental tasks as she advances into normal, healthy adulthood. What concerns me most as I watch her navigate through the high seas, rogue waves and occasional Bermuda Triangle of classes in college is how she manages the successes and failures she will undoubtedly face.
Will she attribute all her good grades to her own skill and acumen while blaming her failures on her professors? Does she always have an excuse for why she didn't do as well as she wanted to, or does she humbly acknowledge that she didn't work hard enough or spent too much time partying?
I know that good grades are often an indication of organized living, a sense of responsibility and diligence. But I also know plenty of outstanding students who are shiftless cheaters and plagiarists who spent their undergraduate educations mastering their manipulative skills.
That said, here are my suggestions for helping your college-age daughter manage the stressors of academia while fostering her growth into a healthy, well-rounded adult:
Don't get overly involved with her assignments or in the middle of any disputes between her and her professors. Success in college is her responsibility, and you need to let her accomplish this on her own steam.
Reward with Praise
When she tells you she received a good grade, ask her what she loved about the assignment or the class. Then, validate the new and exciting things she's learned and remind her of the relationship between interest, effort and success.
Be a Health Advisor
If she expresses feeling overwhelmed or stressed by the demands of school, review the benefits of adequate sleep, eating well, exercising moderately and effective time management. And, if she's involved with many extracurricular activities, help her prioritize while keeping in mind that she needs downtime from studying too.
Practice Listening First
If your daughter sounds like she's completely falling apart from pressures related to school, before you tell her to hop the first bus or plane home, remind her that nothing is more important than her health --mental and physical. Talk her down without taking over for her. This is a great opportunity to help her develop coping strategies.
Laugh with Her
Look for the humor in what she's telling you and help her see it too. Adding some levity doesn't mean you're dismissing her distress; you're helping her see things from a different perspective.
Keep an eye out for persistent perfectionism and unrealistic goals. No one is good at everything. If perfectionism is ruling her life, suggest she talk with one of the counselors at the student health services.
College is a time to for expanded thinking, learning and setting goals in life. It's also the time when the foundation for sturdy adulthood really takes hold. As a parent, remind your daughter of all of the above, and if she's struggling with her GPA for realistic reasons, remind her that her future employers won't ask about her grades. And, there's always next semester or a different class that she can look toward to bump up her GPA if need be. Your concerns as her parent shouldn't be just about her grades; they should include her development into a well-rounded, happy adult who can take pride in knowing she did her best in college -- whatever her grades end up being.
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