Critical Thinking Skills: Tools Your Daughter Needs for College

Female student being bullied by other group of studentsCritical thinking can be traced to the Socratic method of Ancient Greece.  It is a process of asking questions to trigger a deeper level of thinking and understanding. It is an important skill that everyone should develop, and should be considered a part of formal education. It is imperative that your daughter develop and strengthen her critical thinking skills to ensure that she does not make emotion-based decisions that will undermine her prospects for success in college, life, and future careers. Your daughter must also learn how to understand and skillfully navigate the emotional dynamics in social and dating relationships, so as to make wise and healthy decisions for herself and others.

Information technologies and social media enable us to communicate with others in ways that are exciting, challenging… and potentially dangerous.  Our girls are growing up in a world where a single impulsive or ill-considered posting on Facebook or Twitter can be shared instantaneously and broadly, with serious and detrimental consequences for one’s career and personal well-being. Many teenagers that I have counseled do not fully grasp the long-term and potentially harmful consequences of social media communications. They do not understand that the photos, comments and personal information that they post and share with friends online may be viewed by college admissions officers, future employers and others, thereby putting their reputations, relationships and future employment prospects at risk.

How Critical Thinking Skills Can Save a Girl’s Life 

Critical thinking skills can be life-saving. Many of today’s parents are fearful that their daughter will be tempted to drink and drive or drive and text, thereby jeopardizing her own safety and the safety of others. It’s not enough to tell your daughter not to text and drive or not to get in the car with someone who has been drinking. Today’s teenage girls need to (1) know their options, (2) practice speaking up for themselves in uncomfortable, difficult or dangerous situations, and (3) have the confidence and discernment to speak up and when necessary, remove themselves from dangerous situations.  This is where critical thinking skills can be applied.

Does your daughter know what to do if she were at a party where she felt uncomfortable due to some type of illegal, inappropriate, or harmful activity taking place? She needs to develop discernment and street smarts to deal with such situations, as well as the confidence to speak up and take appropriate action on her own behalf.

Role Playing Reinforces Critical Thinking Skills

Often times a teen girl has not learned or practiced the phrases and language that will help her speak up confidently or walk away from a potentially dangerous situation. In difficult or uncomfortable situations, your daughter may be paralyzed by feelings of guilt or confusion that impede her critical thinking capacity and ability to act wisely and confidently.  This is where role playing can help. During role playing, girls can practice speaking up for themselves and embed key phrases into her subconscious so she can better access the language she will need when the occasion calls for it.

Most teenage girls are not able to think through or anticipate all the possible short-term and long-term outcomes and consequences of her own activity or the activity of those around her. Girls often harbor unconscious emotions and fears that can easily become obstacles, keeping them from making good decisions.

These are the types of conversations and discussions that parents need to have with their daughters before they set off for college — and not just once!  When I work with teenage girls I will often do role playing to help them develop and strengthen their critical thinking skills.  Knowing what to say is not enough.  Your daughter must be able to speak up confidently in difficult situations.  This is especially important if your daughter has a people-pleaser personality type.

Next Steps: Preparing Your Daughter for the Emotional Demands of College 

  • If you haven’t already done so, initiate a conversation with your daughter about the topics discussed above.  Be casual and friendly; nothing turns a teen off more than making a big deal out of something.
  • Be a calm and supportive presence in your daughter’s life. Avoid being critical or judgmental.  You want to be the person she turns to when she needs help.
  • If your daughter already struggles with anxiety or depression, don’t assume these symptoms will go away on their own. Seek out professional and compassionate help before she leaves for college.
  • Enroll your daughter in a course or seminar that will help foster these very important tools. There are many worthwhile programs available and will be beneficial during her development into adulthood.

Even though your teenage daughter may be eager to break free of your supervision and involvement in her life, you still have an important role to play in supporting and guiding her decision making. Girls heading off to college are most likely experiencing a mixture of excitement and anxiety about what’s to come.  Whether she acknowledges it or not, she still needs your love, guidance and support. Make sure your daughter is well equipped to handle life’s difficult moments; they are meant to be speed bumps — not road blocks.

Remember, you don’t have to do all of this alone. I have been a counselor to girls and teenagers for over 20+ years. It would be my pleasure to play a part in empowering your daughter with critical-thinking skills. Reach out to me via email or phone to schedule an appointment.

Michelle Kelley

Michelle Kelley Licensed Counselor, Owner, Girls Stand Strong

Licensed counselor and founder of Girls Stand Strong Michelle Kelley, LCSW, helps girls and women of all ages develop and improve their self-image, self-esteem, relationship and communication skills, emotional understanding, coping skills, the ability to handle difficult situations and people, and resiliency to create a brighter, better and more successful tomorrow. For more information about Michelle’s coaching and counseling services, call (703) 505-2413 or email

Read What People Are Saying About Michelle Kelley.

Comments are closed.

Schedule an Appointment

Make an Appointment


I just wanted to say THANK YOU. I left your office so inspired today.
To say Michelle changed our lives would not be an exaggeration. She was very empathetic and non-judgmental... She didn't make our daughter feel badly... She didn't make my husband and myself feel like incompetent parents.
I definitely owe my newfound confidence to Michelle. Without her, I don’t know how I would’ve been able to come out of my horrible situation as such a better version of myself.
People don't understand Michelle doesn’t just offer advice… which they seem to be afraid of hearing. I convey the message that the decisions you make are ultimately your own but Michelle will help you find clarity and sort through emotions.
We felt comfortable knowing that Michelle would be the kind of counselor that would help our daughter see the good in herself, but also question some of her choices and actions.
You have brought back the communication ability that I thought that I lost. You helped her understand what we were feeling and she is such a better person for seeing you.
Michelle, you are so right about [my daughter] and how she thrives off of feelings of accomplishment. All seems to be good now. She amazes me every day with the way she is learning to handle tough situations.
With Michelle’s guidance, I was able to accomplish in approximately 8 months what I hadn’t been able to over the past 15 years.
I am forever grateful for Michelle's help.
Thank you, Michelle, for giving me my voice and a new lease on life.
Retired Arlington County Teacher
She helped me focus my attention toward problem-solving issues.
Laura Clancy, Owner
MuffinToppled® Fitness Coaching
Michelle is the best life coach I ever had.
Michelle is an excellent listener and her insights and advice were always right on target.
(mother of a teen girl)
She helped me in so many ways!
Michelle Kelly saved my life. What more can I say?
Stephanie W.

Read More Testimonials »

Sign-up for Our Newsletter

Teaching women and girls how to live with integrity, authenticity and self-awareness.

Subscribe here:

View previous newsletters.

Expert Blog Categories

Let’s chat!

92 Main Street, Suite 202, Warrenton, Virginia 20186