Sending a kid off to college is a huge change for the family. Not only will it be a formative time for the kids, but it can be a formative time for parents, as well. You’re making the transition from the parent of a kid to the parent of an adult. The change itself can have big ripple effects through the family and it’s best to know what they might be. Here’s how you, your kid, and the whole family can get through the college experience and come out stronger on the other side.
Acclimating and helping them acclimate
The parting itself can be a big event in both the lives of the parents and the kids. Prepare to cry is one piece of advice. Don’t listen to “Cat’s in the Cradle’ after you send them off, either. But really, you should spend the time leading up to their move not only helping them set-up a timetable for moving and getting set-up before classes begin. You should talk to them about the different challenges they’re going to face when they go. Financial responsibility, peer pressure, and how to be self-reliable are all challenges they’re going to face. Spend the time in the lead-up having real conversations about both the practical and the emotional.
Footing the bill
Be prepared for the real financial challenges you’re going to face, too. Hopefully, you have some savings that you can use to help pay for college. But it’s well known that 60% of parents get into debt helping to fund college. It might be paying for essential costs or helping them out of whatever bind they’ve got themselves into. You’re going to help your children when they need it but you have to make sure it doesn’t ripple back on you too hard. Have a debt management strategy at the ready by budgeting cuts in your expenses and using sites like consolidate.loan to make repayments much easier on you. At some point, of course, you are going to take off the training wheels. Not only can you not afford to clean up every mistake, but it won’t help your kids if you do.
Sitting in the backseat
So, how do you be a good college parent, one that’s not too hands-on, but also not gone? As washingtonpost.com suggests, it’s about finding balance. You should always be there to listen and be willing to understand any problem they have. But you should offer advice first and foremost, rather than swooping in to provide the solution. At the same time, you should be a safe haven for them. When they come back home, for instance, make sure their room is more-or-less in the way they left it. They might be going into adulthood, but some of that childhood comfort can be just the place for de-stressing when they need it.
There are going to be tears, there are going to be financial issues, and there are going to be times you want to swoop in and protect your kids from the realities of the world. But hopefully the tips above help you find a modicum of peace and the strength to see it through and be a healthier family for it.