There once was a time when most of my friends were dropping their children off for their first day of school. Now it seems like a lot of them are packing the car and dropping their child off at college!
My how the time goes by.
Sooner or later, the parents of these kids may get a phone call, email or text (most likely the latter) from their young independent child saying they are a little homesick or overwhelmed by all the challenges of college life. That's a normal reaction to immense change.
A recent article I read hit home on a lot of the trials that kids face when experiencing total freedom from their every day parental input. The article was written from the perspective of what one young lady wished she had known before going to college, but I thought it offered good advice for parents looking for ways to reassure and offer advice (when asked) to their new college student as well.
1. Let them know that everyone is in the same position as they are. College is the time to be friendly and open to meeting new people. Remind them that they can feel less intimidated by remembering that others are in the same situation as they are and will likely be grateful if your student reaches out to them.
2. Coping with roommates. It's not easy living in the same room as someone, no matter how well you get along. Your college student may have shared a room with a brother or sister before, but this is completely different.
Let them know that coordinating sleep schedules to when they can have guests over, having a roommate requires constant communication and compromising.
Whether they choose to live with someone who they already know or with someone new, being direct, open and considerate can help build a successful relationship with their roommate.
However, if they do end up in a difficult roommate situation, they can talk to their resident adviser. He or she will hopefully be able to help them resolve the situation, whether it's talking through their disagreements or switching roommates.
3. Alcohol. Most college students are going to have the opportunity to drink alcohol either on or off campus. It's one of those "new experiences" that can quickly get out of control. Remind your child that drinking brings risks. Take the time for a heart–to-heart, particularly with young women, about the dangers of being drunk and vulnerable with people you don't know well. Kids who drink are more likely to be victims of a violent crime, or alcohol-related traffic crash. That's not just parental paranoia; it's a fact.
There are several very good websites that have articles on talking to your teen and college student about drinking. One such website is: http://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/otheralcoholinformation/makedifference.aspx.
Drug use falls into the same category. I wish there was a magic button to press to keep our kids safe and away from all dangers, but there isn't. Open communication, watching for signs in changes of behavior and fingers crossed are our best options right now.
While it's not the most important topic related to college drinking, a gentle reminder that booze can also add a lot of calories and increase the probability of gaining the traditional freshman 15 pounds (or more) may not hurt either.
4. Staying ahead of the game. Procrastinating on completing schoolwork until the night before can lead to pulling all-nighters, high stress and low grades. If grades or school pressure is giving your child an extra dose of anxiety, suggest making a schedule, keeping a to-do list and setting goals for the semester that reflect their priorities. Make big projects more manageable by breaking them into small steps to complete over time.
5. Get to know the professors. Your child may feel a little lost in the crowd and the classroom, especially in the larger schools and classes. Ask them if they are making an effort to get to know their professors. It's amazing how many kids don't. These people understand how difficult it can be to start a new adventure and not have the peer support someone is used to. They see it every year.
Also, they may also be the ones your child turns to when needing a recommendation. Mention that they could introduce themselves, visit with their professors during office hours and ask questions about their courses and interests. Let them know their professors may be able to introduce them to others in their field or help them get their first job out of college.
You never know how valuable a certain relationship can be.
6. Finances. Here are some tips for managing their finances. Let them know that there are many ways they can cut back on costs while in school if they think strategically. Search for the cheapest place to buy textbooks, such as renting them for the semester through Amazon, or downloading the texts.
Look into scholarships through the school or outside organizations. Sites like Scholarships.com or Fastweb.com can help you find scholarships that are specific to your needs.
And if their schedule allows, get a part-time job so they can help pay for food and housing. Many people have helped pay for or paid entirely for their own college education. It can actually help someone appreciate the opportunities that college offers more.
Four years will pass in the wink of an eye, just like the years since your child first walked through the doors of grade school. Life's funny that way.
This isn't the complete list that the author outlines in her article; you can see more ideas on the link listed below.
When children are finally college bound, it's an exciting and bittersweet time for parents. Just remember to keep the communication going, the welcome door open and the washer and dryer ready for a new load. They'll be in touch.
Source: Sarah Bourassa, http://www.today.com/parents/11-things-i-wish-i-knew-going-college-1D80098788
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