MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on May 25th, 2015, 0 Comments

Modern Family: Season 6, Episode 24, American Skyper

Even the American Skyper Phil Can’t Solve Everything

The Framework
Tonight Alex graduates from high school. Phil, who can’t make it home from a business trip, is forced to attend the family celebration by a robot on Skype.
Phil: How great is this thing, huh? It’s so convenient. It’s like I’m right there in the room with you guys.

The house is especially full with visitors tonight – including Andy’s girlfriend Beth. And it really does feel as though Phil is right there in the house with them. In fact, practically everyone (except for Jay who shuts him in the bathroom) seeks Phil out to dump their problems on him.

Claire: [I got Alex] a key chain with a picture of me and [her] on her first day of school. I wanted her to have something that reminded her of how much I love her.
But later there’s this.
Claire: Honey, the key chain was a bust. I need something else. Quick.
Phil: Why don’t we just sing that song I wrote her … Good thing I brought my ukulele on the trip.
Claire: Trip! Oh! When Alex was little, I took her for brunch at that cute little Dutch town up north. I-I could take her there again. A trip for just the two of us. It’s perfect.
And then there’s this.
Claire: You’re never gonna believe what my dad did.
Phil: Lock you in the bathroom?
Claire: No. He gave Alex a trip to Europe for her graduation present. There’s no way I can now give her a weekend of Dutch pancake balls after that.

Cam: Phil, I need to talk to you, man to man. I think Mitchell’s having an affair.

Mitchell: We had some budget cuts at the office, and a bunch of us got laid off … I didn’t tell Cam because I was embarrassed, but also because I knew I would get another job like that. But it’s been a month …
Phil: Mitchell, you can talk to me. I’m a realtor.

Andy: Hey, Mr. D. Can we talk? … I’ve been getting some signals from Beth that she wants me to propose. I even have a ring. [But] there’s this other girl, and I feel like I have a serious connection with her, but I just don’t know how she feels.
Phil: It’s natural to wonder about a different path, but if you truly love Beth, you should propose.
Andy: You’re right. I’ll do it. There’s this place she loves by the ocean. I’ll take her there and propose at sunset.

Haley: Hey, Dad, can we talk? … Everyone thinks Beth is so great, but I think she’s crazy. She’s been after me all day … [because] she thinks I’m in love with Andy.
Phil: Are you?
Haley: No. I mean, I care about him. He makes me laugh. I like spending time with him.
Phil: Well, do you think about him when he’s not around?
Haley: I guess. Sometimes, I see something funny and I think, “Oh, Andy would love that. I wish he were here so I could share it with him.”
Phil: Honey, I know I’m just a robot, but that sounds like love to me.

Flipping the Frame: My Notes
Modern Family has just been renewed for another season – which means that the show will have to deal with tonight’s guest of honor going off to college. And Phil gets a lot of practice tonight at the long-distance relationship that will be required.

Of course, there have been other, earlier transitions in kids’ lives – like starting kindergarten and going off to their first summer camp – but no transition is bigger than that of graduating from high school and leaving home for college. And the leaving for college thing is not just a transition for our kids – it’s a transition for us as well.

BottomLine
Alex: Hey, Mom … I wanted to give you a present.
Claire: Me? No. Honey, I want to give you a present. That’s what I’ve been trying to do all day. You are the last person who should give me anything.
Alex: You got me here. You got me to graduation. To Caltech. You did it. And you’re done. … I want you to go to Europe with me.

Truth be told, it’s Phil’s experience tonight – not Claire’s – that better foreshadows the interactions to come as our teens get set to take off for college.

For starters, a soon-to-be college kid’s focus is likely to be outside the family. So don’t count on yours inviting you to tag along to Europe (or anywhere else they happen to be going) this summer. And although you’ll probably invite them to do all kinds of things with you before they leave, they’re likely to say “no” almost every time.

Plus, while Alex assured Claire that she was now “done” at her job as a parent, it’s likely that things couldn’t be further from the truth for most of us moms. In fact, the dumping-on that Phil got tonight should help prepare us for the almost inevitable calls from our distraught teens during their freshman year at college.

What’s a Mom to Do
Here are some ideas to help make the college transition easier on you and your teen.

Invite your soon-to-be college kid to do things with you, but don’t be surprised if they say “no.” Your teen’s focus is likely to be elsewhere this summer. But the extent to which they stretch and extend themselves in healthy ways over this transition time is largely dependent on how connected they feel to home. So invite them to do all kinds of things with you and the rest of the family. But don’t guilt-trip them into doing something they don’t want to do. And don’t let yourself feel hurt when they say “no.” Because then you’ll stop asking just when your teen needs you to reach out more than ever. Instead, be content with knowing that the reaching-out and inviting is what deepens the connection – especially during this huge transition time.

Establish some guidelines for regular communication while they’re away. Before they leave for college, come up with a communication plan that will work best for both of you. Decide together about how often you want to connect, what method you will use to communicate, and what time is best. Many families decide on a once-a-week phone call and set a regular time and day of the week to check-in. Sunday afternoons often work well. These might be FaceTime or Skype calls with the entire family.

In between these scheduled calls, you can keep in-touch by email or texts. But don’t be hurt if the correspondence is one-sided. In fact, it’s best to not expect an immediate reply or any reply to every one. Trust that the connection is being made. Like the invitations to do things together this summer, it’s the overture that counts.

Remind them that you’ll still be there for them if they need help.
When our kids take off for college, we have less oversight than we’ve ever had before. However, we still have lots of influence. And if we create an atmosphere of open communication before they leave, they’re more likely turn to us for guidance if they need help. So set some time aside this summer to discuss your new role and theirs. Below are some talking points to help get the discussion started.
– What choices, decisions or problems do you expect them to handle (at least at first) on their own?
– What decisions do you expect to have input on?
– At what point should your teen ask for help?
– In what situations would your teen want a friend or roommate to call you or the counseling center?

At the end of tonight’s episode as Andy gets set to take Beth for a drive to catch the sunset and propose, Phil tries desperately to get his attention.
Phil: It’s Haley! Haley’s the girl! You love Ha– (no audio) love each other! Where are you going? You guys love each oth– You’re making a huge mistake!

When the audio fails, we’re left dangling with no resolution about whether Haley and Andy will end up together. Perhaps this is just the writers’ way of making sure we tune-in for Season 7. But it’s also true to life. Because in reality, even if we have the most sophisticated telecommunication system available and the best parenting skills possible, we still can’t fix our kids’ problems for them.

This is never truer than when they’re away at college. But we can still be there for them – caring about them, remembering them, listening to them, and influencing them – from a distance.

Your Parenting Experiences
Have you found a particularly good source of advice for launching college kids? One of my all time favorites is The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College by Harlan Cohen. It gives a great behind-the-scenes look at campus life – for college freshman and their parents. No topic is taboo. A new, 6th edition just came out.

Sources and Resources: TransitionYear.org by the Jed Foundation; Staying Connected to Your Teenager by Michael Riera, PhD; The Launching Years by Laura Kastner, PhD and Jennifer Wyatt, PhD; The Naked Roommate by Harlan Cohen



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