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Dr. Lowenstein

How Divorced Parents Can Help Their Teen Navigate the College Process

A common mantra for separated or divorced parents is to always put their child’s interests first. This certainly comes into play as the teens of divorced parents embark on their higher education journey. When the time comes to help your teen research, apply and pay for college, it’s important for you and your ex-spouse to put your personal differences aside. If that sounds easier said than done, here’s some guidance for navigating the process.  

  • Start early and plan ahead.  This will give everyone involved more time to understand the role they play. Consider a communication stream that keeps everybody in the loop, such as a shared document or spreadsheet that tracks important information and dates. Test scores and financing are two of the biggest hurdles for many families. Be sure to support your teen as he or she prepares for the SAT and ACT, and talk frankly with your ex about who will be financially responsible for your teen’s education. Many couples establish a plan for college support as part of their divorce agreement.
  • Let your child take the lead. Choosing a college is an important decision in your student’s life. Both parents should be clear and upfront about expectations and limitations around the decision while still letting your child have as much control as possible. This helps minimize any tension between you and your ex. Like all parents, however, you will no doubt need to establish some parameters related to affordability and geographic location.
  • Stay involved. While it’s important to empower your teen in the process, both you and your ex should remain present and involved. Help your teen manage the many requirements and deadlines. Commit to attending college preparation programming at your teen’s high school. And plan to visit campuses with your teen, whether this happens together or you split the visits with your ex. Most important, keep the lines of communication open by scheduling regular meetings, phone calls or a simple group chat.  

This is an exciting time in your teen’s life, but it can also be stressful for everyone involved. Don’t forget about the many resources available to you and your student, from school guidance counselors and college advisors to family and friends who’ve already experienced this rite of passage with their teen. Above all, maintain a good relationship with your ex, realizing that you both want what’s best for your child.  

David Lowenstein, Ph.D. is a psychologist and the clinical director of Lowenstein & Associates, Inc. in Columbus, Ohio. In addition to providing therapeutic services to individuals and families, he offers training and consultation to numerous associations, schools and agencies around the country. Additionally, he is a frequent radio and TV guest and a resource and contributing writer for numerous newspapers and magazines nationwide. Contact Dr. David Lowenstein at 691 South Fifth Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43206, or call 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.