Just when I thought I was one of a handful to embrace the comedy in college-bound families, Hollywood put its hand on the pulse of family angst. It happens every year, but suddenly sitcoms are sitting up and taking notice of college-bound anxiety. As they should. It's rampant and there's humor if you look hard enough -- especially when they help parents discover that panic is practically universal and their teen isn't the only one rolling his eyes and procrastinating.
This year approximately 3 million families are in the middle of chaos. Deadlines are right around the corner and the "to do" list is jammed. SATs. College visits. Essay writing. Admissions and scholarship applications. Financial aid forms. With the exception of early decision admissions (fraught with it's own dilemmas), there's no rest or peace until May 2012, when the deals are sealed.
Thankfully, parents and teens can take a well-deserved comedic break and feel a little better in the process.The writers of Modern Family and The Middle must be parents of college-bound kids, because they brilliantly nail college-bound family dynamics. There's lots of finger pointing, drama, and spellchecking.
In separate episodes of Modern Family, high school senior Haley (Sarah Hyland) struggles with finding an essay topic (Spoiler Alert: Mom's means of inspiring her borders on child abuse, but it's a sitcom!) and touring her dad's alma matter with dad (always embarrassing). You will smile at the teen trauma and overboard parents. And you will wonder if parents are really that annoying. Heads up -- Yes, we are.
In my favorite college comedy episode ("The Test") The Middle's Frankie (Patricia Heaton) experiences the parental anxiety of learning a standardized testing deadline a little too late. And while it also eluded her teen son Axl (Charlie McDermott), it is, of course, her fault. And then there are the obnoxiously competitive other parents. It's like a script from our lives. In another episode, when Axl is approached by a football recruiter, the family focuses on impression management, highlighting the fact that everybody's scrambling to impress the admissions officers.
Yes, there's comedy in college-bound anxiety, and parents and teens are giving Hollywood some rich material. Indulge in a little to keep your parental perspective. It'll help you remember there's light and laughs at the end of the college journey -- until you get the bill.
Follow Nancy Berk, Ph.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/nancyberk