Sunday 22 September 2019

Dear David Coleman: My son is so stressed that he hasn't accepted his CAO offer

Tell your son that this transition is something that you know he will cope with
Tell your son that this transition is something that you know he will cope with
David Coleman

David Coleman

Q My son has just got his CAO offer and after all of the stress of the Leaving Cert, the points and the whole lot, he has just been offered his first-choice course in college in Dublin.

We couldn't be more thrilled for him. But in the last two days since the CAO offer, he has been gripped by anxiety, and has been in tears several times. I gather from him that he hasn't yet accepted his place! We don't know what to do to help him, and I know we have to get onto things like his accommodation, but it's like he is just frozen. Please help.


David replies:  Perhaps your son has just realised the enormity of what he has actually achieved, and also the reality of what that means in terms of moving out of home and taking much greater responsibility for himself.

It is easy for youngsters to get overwhelmed. The key is for you not to panic too. I know I write these responses with a bit of delay, so hopefully he has accepted his course before the CAO deadline, which will have passed by the time this can be published. If so, then he still has a week or two before the course will start and there is a lot you can do to help him.

You can do practical things like get up to the college to look around, help to orient him with the college, the city and his likely living arrangements. If you have been able to get the campus or college accommodation, then that too can make the transition easier, as he will start with peers in exactly the same boat as him.

Either way, a little bit of familiarity can help a lot with easing the stresses of big changes. You might also link him in with whatever student support services are available in the college, as these will be well set up to help new students to make this big transition.

You can also talk empathetically, with him, about the fact that this is a big deal, and even though it is a big deal, you believe he is able for it. Help him to understand that yes, it might be anxiety provoking or just plain scary to be thinking about living away from home, but that it is something you know that he will be able to cope with.

Let him know that the fears he might have make lots of sense given the size, and "unknowingness" of the transition ahead of him, but perhaps you can then remind him of other transitions that he has successfully managed.

Alongside the practical things to help familiarise him with being in Dublin, it will be your confidence in him that might then make the difference for him. Sometimes, the faith that we can show in our teenagers helps them to find faith in themselves and to believe that they can cope.

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