By Purvi S. Mody Daily News columnist
Over the next month, parents across the country are going to drop their children off at college for their freshman year. If you fall into this group, your emotions the past couple of weeks probably ranged from excitement to sadness to pride to anxiety.
But as emotional as you are feeling, understand that your children’s emotions are also in high gear.
For many, this is the first time they will ever leave home. And even if your child has gone away to the occasional summer camp or vacation, packing and leaving for college marks the end of childhood and the beginning of taking complete responsibility. Over the next couple of days or weeks, sit down with your children and talk about these important issues:
1. Remind your child why she is ultimately going to college. With increased independence, many teens get sidetracked. A gentle reminder every once in a while will help to remind her of long-term goals. Talk about the school resources available that will help your student and give her some tips on how to make the most of the next four years.
2. Acknowledge that your child should and will have fun. College is as much a time for your child to develop socially and emotionally as academically. It’s important for you to be realistic in what you anticipate your child will and will not do.
I know it is hard for many parents to believe that their children will drink, try drugs, or get into relationships in college. The reality is that many students use college as a time to explore their own boundaries and they need your guidance more than ever. Shutting out the possibility and absolutely forbidding behaviors can lead to a breakdown in communication.
And at the end of the day, if your child is uncomfortable asking your advice, there is a greater likelihood that she will not come to you when she needs your help. Have the talk with your child now about drinking, drugs and sex. It may be uncomfortable now, but well worth it in the long run.
3. You may or may not be footing your child’s college costs, but this is the time to teach her about personal finances. College students get inundated with credit card offers and sign up because of the lure of a free T-shirt or water bottle.
Having credit cards is also a sign of being an adult with the ability to pay for things that were previously unattainable. Teach your child about the importance of building a good credit score and sticking to a budget. Many students graduate with incredibly high credit card bills because they get sucked in early and the high interest rates keep them from paying the bills off.
Sit down with your child and help her create a sample budget based on what seems reasonable. Don’t forget to take into account a little bit of money to have fun with.
4. Discuss how often you would like to talk to your child. Even with technology, college students are often “too busy” to talk to their parents. Be realistic in your expectations and be ready to adapt. Rather than feeling ignored, set up a regular time to talk every week no matter what — perhaps Sunday night after dinner, or Wednesday morning before her 10 a.m. class. Pick a time that is both convenient and as stress-free as possible. While hopefully you will talk more than just once a week, that set-in-stone weekly call will keep the two of you in touch and prevent you from going crazy wondering what she is up to.
As you prepare her for the next step in life, remember this is also a new step in yours. Don’t be afraid to share your concerns with your daughter; hopefully she will reciprocate and share some of her fears and worries.
This is an exciting time filled with change and hope. Just take some tissue with you for the all-important drop-off.
Purvi S. Mody is co-owner of Insight Education, an educational consulting firm that helps students throughout the Bay Area to achieve their educational goals. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Transition to College: Five Tips for Parents (education.com)
- Kids In College? Are Smart Phones, Facebook, and Skype Helping or Hindering Closeness and Independence? (psychologytoday.com)
- 10 Ways to Successfully Prepare Your Child for College (education.com)
- Countdown to College: You’re Not The One Off to College, Parents (timesoftexas.com)
- Colleges Failing at Curbing Binge Drinking (queerlandia.com)
- Calculating How Much To Save For College: Dealing with Debt (education.com)
- Paying For College: Seeking Out Student Sources (education.com)
- Taking the Kids: Off to College for the First Time (blogsouthwest.com)
- ‘Amazon Student’: New IPhone App For College Students (huffingtonpost.com)
- Are credit cards a thing of the past on college campuses? (jennstrathman.com)