prepared for college

Is Your Daughter Prepared for College and Beyond… Emotionally?

Serious young college girl using tablet PC with blurred students sitting in the parkSo your daughter is heading to college this fall.  Congratulations!

For parents and high school seniors alike, this is an emotionally charged and bittersweet time.  It is a time to remember and reflect on your teenager’s personal, academic, athletic and extracurricular achievements and milestones from grade school through high school. You recently celebrated her graduation with an eye towards her emerging independence and transition into young adulthood.

This can also be a time of mourning for you, knowing you must come to grips with letting go of a beloved child in whom you have invested so much: so much time, so much hope, so much energy, so much attention, and so much worry.

You deserve to be recognized and commended for all you have done to prepare your daughter for college, and to promote and develop her self-reliance and independence. You have spent many hours together with her researching and evaluating college choices, visiting college campuses, and ensuring that college applications were completed and submitted on time.

Now that these tasks are behind you, you have yet another important role and mission as a parent:  ensuring that your daughter is emotionally prepared for college.

Emotional Intelligence:  A Critical Yet Underdeveloped Skill 

Today’s children are growing up in an incredibly fast-paced world that allows little time for introspection or the opportunity to gain self-knowledge.  Our graduating seniors appear mature, sophisticated and adult in many ways, but they have not been well-schooled in identifying, understanding and managing the emotions that govern their decision making.

In my professional experience counseling teenagers and their parents over the past 20+ years, I have observed that many outwardly-successful and accomplished high school girls are clueless when it comes to understanding and taking care of the emotional dynamics in their lives. This is troubling, because it is human nature for emotions to drive our actions and choices in life. Emotions, more than logic, often dictate the friends we choose, the people we date and marry, the way we spend our leisure and the careers we pursue.

Equally worrisome is that many parents do not know how to teach the crucial skills of emotional intelligence to their daughters.  There are many reasons why this is so:

  • Many — if not most — adults have never been educated in how to recognize and care for their own emotional needs. How can they teach a skill to their children that they have never learned or put into practice themselves? 
  • Our schools do not make emotional intelligence part of the regular curricula. Our children are encouraged and expected to excel academically and athletically, but they are not offered any regular, consistent or on-going instruction in the emotional dimensions of their lives.  They are not taught how to recognize and deal with difficult emotions, how to set boundaries to protect themselves in demanding or dangerous relationships, or how to apply critical thinking skills to social and dating relationships. 
  • Our society communicates a double standard.  We are taught to believe that displays of emotion are acceptable in women but a sign of weakness in men. How ridiculous!  The truth is that emotions are a sign of being human. Understanding, managing and learning how to communicate one’s emotions is a sign of higher intelligence, not a sign of weakness!  This is what is commonly referred to as emotional intelligence. 

How Emotional Intelligence Can Improve the Quality of Your Teenage Daughter’s Life

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage your emotional and social world. To succeed in college and in life, your daughter will need to know how to handle:

  • Disappointments
  • Break-ups
  • Academic struggles
  • Difficult social situations & difficult personality types
  • Technology traps

Possible Obstacles to Developing Emotional Intelligence 

  • Fragile self-esteem
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Loneliness
  • Insecurity

When your daughter arrives at college, she will be thrust into a maze of challenging new social situations, dating relationships, temptations, distractions and technology traps. Before sending her off into this brave new world, I encourage you to set aside time this summer to discuss and equip her with emotional intelligence skills she will need to protect her well-being and ensure her success in college and in life.

If you feel that your daughter will benefit from speaking with a counselor to develop her emotional intelligence skills – or if you would like to learn how to guide her – please contact me via email or phone 703.505.2413 to arrange 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

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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.
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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.
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(mother of a teen girl)
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