It’s almost time to kick your teenagers out of the nest and into the real world. For some of you, this is exciting. You finally get the man cave or craft room that you’ve always wanted. For others, this is terrifying. You’re not even sure if Jimmy will be able to handle his own laundry once he’s away at school.
No matter where you find yourself on that spectrum, there are some things you can do to better equip your children for college. This blog won’t cover EVERYTHING you could be doing, and you shouldn’t expect yourself to be able to prepare your child for every situation. But, here are a few quick tips that may help set your child up for success as he or she chooses and subsequently attends a college.
Four things you can do to prepare your children for college:
- Encourage them in their faith, but let them explore it. This is one of the most difficult things for parents to do. Most parents drift toward being either overbearing, or under-bearing. Finding somewhere in the middle of overbearing and under-bearing is the best place. Here are a few ideas to encourage your son or daughter’s faith without driving them away:
- Help them choose a local church before you finalize a college. Find a gospel-centered, Bible-teaching local church in the town you are sending your kid to. If your son or daughter does not connect to a community immediately, they most likely will not get connected until they are juniors or seniors. This is hugely important.
- Let them ask questions without judgment. Don’t expect them to know all the answers. Rather, converse with them about some tough questions that they may be facing.
- Have intentional conversations with your children while doing something fun, this makes the conversation easier. Consider setting up a weekly breakfast, coffee meeting, weekend getaway, or something else fun you and your kid enjoys doing together. Make some memories before you send them off.
- Communicate to your children the gifts you believe God has given them.
- Pray daily for your child.
- Clarify boundaries. Chores, rules, and expectations, and overall parenting should change as your teenager moves onto college. Examples include:
- When you drop your kid off at college, don’t linger. Let them connect with other students and begin to plant roots.
- Don’t let your son or daughter come home every weekend. Enable them to become an independent person within their new community.
- Clarify the weekends he/she will be coming home. This will include days like: Labor Day weekend, Thanksgiving, Fall Break, or parents’/siblings’ birthdays.
- Clarify the expectations/rules about your home when your child comes back to visit. Will you make them follow curfew still? Will they be responsible for their own chores? Will they need to do their own laundry? Establish these expectations before your child’s first visit home.
- Reach out regularly to your teenager via text or phone. Let them know you’re thinking about them and you love them. I would lean toward a weekly or bi-weekly text or phone call.
- Talk about money. This could be a blog of its own.
- Teach them how to budget.
- Show them how to deal with their FASFA, students loans, and scholarships.
- Do not become their personal money dispenser. If they run out of money in a given month, it will enforce the urgency to implement a budget.
- Let them fail/succeed. The only way to learn is to endure through real-life experiences. Therefore, your child needs to see what it means to fail and succeed. He or she will never grow up if they never learn to make decisions, fail, and learn from them.
- Do not call their professors for them
- Do not intervene in their social relationships. If your daughter is involved in an argument with some of her friends, you don’t need to step in. Let her figure it out.
- Give them the freedom to explore career options
These tips really only scratch the surface to the situations you will run into with your college student. If you have any specific questions, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gunnett, Sandi. “Tips for Successfully Launching Your Kids into College.” Stickyfaith.org. August 2011. http://stickyfaith.org/articles/out-of-the-nest.