Preparing to leave for college.
It’s not just a busy time for teens, but also for parents.
The shopping, the packing, the moving, and filling out forms… and more forms.
It’s easy to get caught up in this whirlwind of preparations and let the enormity of the matter inundate you both.
But being a parent means you need to keep a more level head and look beyond the obvious, beyond what’s right in front of you. Aside from teaching your teen how to handle household chores, you have to help them prepare for the mental and emotional challenges ahead.
If you haven’t already done so, take some time to talk with your teen about those challenges.
Don’t force it, though. Take a deep breath, stay calm, and enjoy these discussions.
7 Important Matters You Should Discuss With Your Teen Before College
1. Discuss their hopes and fears
While it’s an exciting time, your teen most likely also has worries connected with going away to college. Be there to listen and ask questions. Reassure them that everybody has anxieties about making friends and being far from home. Brainstorm solutions together, like routines that can help them keep stability, activities that may alleviate anxiety, and finding support. Remind them that college is the time that most people learn how to be a friend. It’s important to develop and nurture positive connections with others, for the benefit of both sides.
2. Discuss academic expectations
That includes both your teen’s expectations and yours. Talk about what their goals are and how they envision they can reach them. Remind them that most students find college a lot harder than high school and, therefore, it’s important for them to be ready to put forth their best efforts. Such things as getting to know their professors, taking extra tutoring, or choosing classes that they actually enjoy will help them be successful. It’s important that they get pleasure out of learning and expand their horizon, not just focus on high grades. Be clear that you want them to create a balanced life for themselves in college, but also be clear on what you expect.
3. Discuss money
Having an agreement about money with your teen and arranging a budget is vital. Don’t wait until the last minute to discuss who is paying for what and what will happen if they overspend. Make sure they know college is a privilege and, while you’re happy to help, they must understand the costs involved. If you’re planning to supply money—to subsidize their funds or to pay for college in full—you need to break down what that means on a monthly basis.
4. Discuss managing time
College students usually spend less time in class than high school students. The extra time is not just for their pleasure but should be used primarily for studying. Talk with your teen about how they plan to organize their time and projects. Emphasize that there has to be a balance between time for classes, studying, extracurricular activities, and fun stuff. Also, remind them of the importance of taking care of their bodies and minds. Sleep is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.
5. Discuss alcohol, drugs, and sex
Be frank about these matters, but don’t make your teen panic either. College is often a testing ground for a teen’s values and beliefs. Discuss limits and laws. But also probe into your teen’s personal feelings about these topics. Talk about the dangers of engaging in drinking, using drugs, and having sex. Discuss the issues of safety, consent, and misconduct. And don’t leave out the ugly part either—drinking and driving, teenage deaths from drug abuse, or sexual assault. This conversation has to be serious and straightforward. Your teen has to be fully informed and allowed the time to examine these matters in depth.
6. Discuss crisis situations
No one wants to think about emergencies, but it’s crucial that your teen is prepared. Be sure they know what to do when they get injured or become sick—physically or mentally. Ensure that they have contact numbers, their insurance information, and the ability to fill prescriptions.
7. Discuss your feelings
Don’t hold back from being encouraging to your teen. Be sincere and open. Let them know how proud you are of them for taking this huge step into the real world. Every time you allow them to make their own decision, it’s like a vote of confidence in their abilities and maturity. And remind them that while your job raising them may be pretty much done, you’ll always be there for them when they need you.
Above all, don’t lose contact with your teen. They may seem to be distant when far off and never have time to talk. But there’s nothing wrong with you writing them while they’re off at college and continuously assuring them of your love and support. They may not get back to you often, but they will read what you say and it will help keep them grounded.