You are going to have one less sitting at the family table each evening because you’ve got a child leaving for college. This is an exciting and scary time for everyone! You planned for this time in your child’s life. You’ve taught your child values and right from wrong. Legally, your child is now an adult. He/she is 18, mature and responsible, ready to handle college, right?
Research today tells us that the brain isn’t fully mature until around the age of 25. That is a scary thought for parents who are spending or borrowing a lot of money to send their child off to college. So, what should you do? What should you say? What should you not say? How do you know your child is enjoying social life in college without the social pressures going too far?
These questions can be overwhelming and scary but DO educate yourself. College life is different today than it used to be so it is important to try to understand what your child’s life is like on a daily basis.
- DO share with your child about how college will be paid for (loans, savings, scholarships, etc..). Having him/her understand the payment plan will help your child understand the importance of being responsible while in college.
- DO get the roommate’s phone number and roommate’s parents’ phone numbers.
- DO send your child’s health insurance card with him/her.
- DO show your child where the nearest minor emergency clinic is located. Don’t rely on the clinics on campus. They are not 24 hour facilities.
- DO have a monthly spending budget in place. (Many college students eat out a lot, and travel on the weekends.)
- DO set expectations about grades, drinking and drugs.
- DO talk to your child on the phone or face time. It is important to hear your child’s voice.
- DO have your child give you access to his/her school accounts. (Even if you pay the bill your child must grant you access to his/her information.)
- DO expect that your child will ask for a week long vacation during spring break. (It is part of the entitled culture we live in.) So make a plan ahead of time. Will you pay for spring break? Does your child need to get a job to pay for spring break?
- DO discuss an “exit” plan for social situations with your child. If your child finds himself/herself in a bad situation, who is he/she comfortable calling for help?
- DO show up unexpectedly every few months just to “check-in” and get to know your child’s new friends.
- DO encourage your child to get a part-time job at the university.
- DON’T be naive and allow yourself to think, “Not my child. My child would never do that!” Your child is trying to make new friends and fit in. He/She will do things just to fit it!
- DON’T call him/her every day. Your child will share more with you if he/she calls when alone and not around other people.
- DON’T call or email professors. This is your child’s responsibility.
- DON’T assume your child will always put academics first.
- DON’T have bills such as: tuition, rent, books, electricity, internet, etc., sent to you directly. Instead, put the money in your child’s account and have him/her “pay” the bill. This will remind your child college is expensive and needs to be taken seriously.
- DON’T assume your child will tell you when there is a problem. You will need to listen carefully and pay attention to changes in behavior.
- DON’T “helicopter parent”. Your child will make mistakes. Let your child deal with the consequences of these mistakes. Hopefully, the mistakes are small.
- DON’T be afraid to step in and take over if your child is not handling the responsibility of college. Remember, not every child is ready for college at 18.
Don’t let this list scare you. It is just a reminder that parenting is not over when a child goes off to college. Parenting a college child is a very hard job!
Here is some more information to educate yourself about the social pressures in college today: