The Five Characteristics of Supportive Parents

Adapted from The Zen of the SAT by Susan Fine

A few years ago, I read an interesting book called The Zen of the SAT, by Susan Fine. In this book, the author presents the five characteristics of supportive parents, an excellent set of guidelines for parents hoping to lessen their children’s stress throughout the SAT process and in turn lessen the stress parents place on themselves. Of course, these guidelines also apply to the ACT process!

1. They separate themselves from their child’s failures and accomplishments.

To parents, the whole college process can feel like a public evaluation of their performance as parents. If their child doesn’t do as well as they’d hoped or expected– which could mean anything from getting into a particular college to achieving a certain GPA or SAT score – they may feel that they have failed as parents. This insecurity can further complicate what is already a challenging process to the child. However, if parents can somehow accept that this is their child’s show, they will do a much better job of supporting their child.

When a child senses that his/her parents feel okay about things, it is easier for that child to take control of the college process.

2. They become informed about the test.

One sure way for parents to ease their own anxieties about the test is to become better informed about the SAT/ACT. Take a look online, and figure out not only the dates the tests are offered, but also what each section of the test is like.

3. They listen to their child.

When parents get caught up in their own anxieties, they stop hearing and understanding their child. Parents who truly listen provide an invaluable gift: they understand what is going on in their child’s academic life in a meaningful way – not just the grades, but the content their child is learning, too. When it comes time to prepare for the SAT, they understand what their child is up against because they hear what their child has to say about it. Instead of allowing their fears to get the best of them, they let their child demystify the test for them.

4. They are available when needed.

When called on, parents can play a key role in their child’s preparation. Parents can quiz kids on vocabulary or help raise their reading level by discussing op-ed articles with them. Parents can time their child on practice tests. The key phrase, however, is “when called on.” Parents who demand to play these roles miss an opportunity to be far more supportive. If parents let their child call the shots, the child will feel empowered and confident.

I want students to feel empowered, BUT YOU, the parent, need to deal with College Board/ – make sure all paperwork is in on time!

5. They genuinely believe in and trust their child’s abilities!

Enough said!

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