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.
There are many tips for your child in high school about college. Guidance counselors work hard to prepare your child academically for college. It’s wonderful that so many high schools now have programs, counselors and resources available for your child to prepare for college. With that being said, there’s more to college life than academics. Have you thought about how you will prepare your child for college life? It’s important to have a few discussions about your child’s future life in college and how things may go with peers, classes and living in a dorm. Here are 3 ways to prepare your child for college life without stressing them out.
Know your Child
Take the time to think about how college life may affect your child’s mental health. If your child is prone to anxiety and panic attacks, then they must be gently prepared for the abundantly busy hallways of college life. No more will your child have a small high school. They could be in a college with over 25,000 students at once which can be difficult for a child with anxiety. Prepare your child for this influx in people by taking the child out frequently to crowded restaurants, events and other social gatherings to help work through panic attacks. Your child may suffer from anxiety or be prone to panic attacks but that shouldn’t get in the way of their college education. When your child starts getting used to crowds in this way, their anxiety will be lessened during college life. It’s a great way to do some hands on preparation for the large college crowds.
Teach Budgeting Skills
If you have not shown your child how to budget money yet, now is most certainly the time. Your child will be heading off to college as an adult responsible for their own finances. It’s important to take some time to work with your child now on setting a budget, sticking with it and learning how to save for wanted items. Be certain to teach your child how to manage a bank account. If your child plans to have their own checking account, it’s important to teach them how to complete the end of month financial reconciliation form. Take time to learn what your child plans to do with their money, be it in a bank or cash in their dorm. Consider purchasing them a fire safe lock case to have in their dorm if they will be keeping cash on hand. Being a financial mess your freshman year in college will only add to the stress that comes with your first year away from home.
Discuss Peer Pressure
Peer pressure will still happen even though your child is heading off to a college full of adults. Think of your child’s middle school life where it was a difficult transition and your child may have had some social issues. College life isn’t that far off from middle school days, except the students are older. Discuss peer pressure, perhaps have a special code word your child may text you when they are in trouble. Talk about all options in how your child can get out of a bad situation without being fearful or the ridicule. Boost self-confidence best you can because that is going to be a huge personal trait your child needs in college life. Assure your child that they may be tested to go down a bad path, but to remain true to their values and morals at all times. Be an ear to listen and give them the confidence to call you at any hour if they need to chat when away at college.
The reality is college life is difficult for both parents and children. It’s the first time the child is away from their parents, no more do they have someone watching over them. Parents have to learn to let go and it can be rather bittersweet. On one hand you are proud that your child is going to college but on the other hand you know you can no longer immediately protect them. College life can be an amazingly fun time so as long as you discuss all basics and allow them to be fully prepared for life beyond academics.