How to Prepare Yourself and Your Son for “The Year That Makes The Difference”

August 17, 2017

Welcome to MindBodyWolverine.blogspot. This is a BA Family Wellness Connection Post, written by Amanda Miller, LCSW, who serves as The School Counselor at Bridgton Academy.

As the School Counselor, I am committed to partnering with families to foster wellness and growth in the students of Bridgton Academy. This blog is a resource to families of incoming students as they prepare for a very transformative year. I will continue to post quarterly to keep families informed of wellness initiatives throughout the year. Please feel free to contact me via email or phone to share any concerns you may have. My email is My work number is 207-647-7646, and my cell number for more urgent matters is 207-740-4905.

The following post contains suggestions for self reflection, information to support your son’s rapid developmental growth, and practical tips for nurturing your Wolverine’s Mind and Body. There are many meaningful ways for parents to tighten the bond with your son as you prepare him for independence and individuation, which is an important developmental milestone of young adulthood. Healthy individuation occurs when a young adult separates physically from his family while maintaining healthy emotional ties of support that serve his future development. This healthy individuation process represents a dynamic balance between two paradoxical human needs: to be loved (connection) and to be in control (autonomy).

During the couple weeks before your son starts “The Year That Makes The Difference”, he may be preparing for this big transition time and saying goodbye in different ways- by being indifferent, excited, avoidant, anxious, focused, or agitated. He may be hitting the gym or the TV, under or over-sleeping, emotional eating, engaging in “retail therapy”, spending most of his time with friends or a special someone other than you. We all resort to different coping skills for big transitions and important challenges. It isn’t often that a young man age 17-19 will be willing or able to express all his love and appreciation that he has for his parents and all they have done for him. It is often very difficult to open up and face the vulnerability beneath the surface. Don’t lose heart. He still needs your love now and throughout the year –it is all about offering support that is non-intrusive to his sense of self. Your support will be best received as your shore him up for independence.

I want to share a few suggestions to make this process a more meaningful journey and strengthen the relationship between you and your son in the process.

Start with Self Reflection:
Ask yourself is there’s anything you haven’t said or done with your son that should happen before he leaves? Reflect on your memories and accomplishments as a parent from birth of your son until today- what are you proud of and admire most about your parenting? Give yourself and your co-parent props for making it to semi-retirement from the most difficult and fulfilling job-parenting!

Address Unfinished Business:
Are Reparations/Apologies Needed? If applicable, it is not to late to apologize to your son for anything you have done or not done to serve the best interest of your son and your family. Don’t expect acknowledgement or forgiveness from them, but try to forgive yourself and lean on another trusted support person in your life if there remains any internal struggle (regrets about the past, etc.). By owning your shortcomings in front of them, you are planting a seed in his heart of what it means to be an imperfect human and modeling how to acknowledge growth areas within yourself . Through this open connection, you can assist them to be patient and forgiving of themselves and others, as all of us are works in progress. This wisdom is the foundation of resilience: not fearing or hiding from failure, but embracing it as a growth opportunity to become our greatest selves.

What’s the Focus?
Find a relaxing time after a good day to ask your son about their goals for the year. Ask them what they want to get out of this year and then try to just listen with out judgment. Their goals may differ from yours and may or may not include goals around academics/grades, SATs, college aps, recruitment, strength& conditioning. Feel free to remind them of their strengths, instill a sense of self confidence by trusting them to do their best. Tell a personal story and share how you used your strengths to overcome adversity to meet your goals. Share a story when you made mistakes in your youth, and what you learned from it.

Remember your son’s goals and write them down later after the conversation.

Ask them if they wouldn’t mind checking in with you in a month about how everything’s going.

You want to give them a little space so they want to come to you and discuss the progress they are making, challenges they are facing.

Ask about communication preferences- text, FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, letters, phone calls. Ask how often they’d like to hear from you, and be open to hearing that they just don’t have much time to connect during pre-season. The first two weeks are extremely demanding on the mind and body.

The Fun Stuff:
Take them shopping for snacks- buy a tote with a tight fitting lid for storage. Bottled water isn’t necessary. Our water is of excellent quality for drinking right from the tap. It has been taste tested by our science classes, and is preferred over bottled spring water. Plan a special family dinner of their choosing, family adventure to a special place, or neighborhood BBQ as a meaningful send off. During the first week or two and throughout the year: Care Packages are highly desired and coveted!!!! Get creative with the contents, but the following items are often celebrated: Protein powders (weight gain/loss shakes), healthy snacks, iTunes or Amazon gift cards. Sneak in a letter of encouragement, or if you are artsy feel free to make a collage of pictures that recall fond memories, accomplishments/goals.

Caring For Yourself:
If you are struggling with having your baby bird fly out of the nest, make a self care and wellness plan. Explore what feeds your soul in addition to your parenting role (which is now shifting). Engage in your favorite wellness activities: yoga, golf, nature walks, swimming, nurturing friendships, cooking healthy food and trying new recipes, meditation, tennis, crafting, etc. A vision board is an evidence-based way to set some positive intentions for living a fulfilling life. See the link below for more info:

If your anxiety or depression symptoms persist, or affect your day to day functioning, please see: to find the best match for a mental health therapist in your area. A licensed professional can assist you to work through any adjustment difficulties that are getting in your way of staying positive and healthy.

Bridgton Academy Cares About Your Son:
If your son is struggling to sleep, concentrate in school, or get their “head in the game”, encourage him to reach out to Amanda Miller, The School Counselor. I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who is here to listen, help students clarify what’s going on, and support them to make a plan around how to best move through what’s going on.

Families can reach out to me directly and give me the heads up about any concerns around their son’s mental health. I touch base with every student and can invite them to meet up for a check in. I am here for students and their families throughout the year, and am available for consults prior to the start of the academic year. I look forward to meeting you and your sons on registration day, when I will be handing out my contact information and a Wellness Welcome Package. Stay tuned to the BA webpage for updated links to this quarterly blog where I will share wellness tips and strategies for students and their families.

Sincerely, Amanda Miller, LCSW