Parents, Keep the Lines of Communication Open
Discuss these things with your child before they leave for college
That moment has arrived. The acceptance letter has been waved in the air, the bags are packed, the dorm room is reserved, and your young adult is heading for college. Depending on your level of involvement in this process, it can feel like a true letdown at this point. Your child is leaving to find his future. How will your relationship change?
Your child will still need you, and no matter how many times he rolls his eyes, he will truly appreciate getting a weekly call, and will likely text you throughout the week. Keeping communications open, especially during this first year when he is going to suddenly have to learn so many things about himself, is critical for everyone’s mental well-being.
Based on interviews conducted with students, parents, and educators, these are some of the things parents need to discuss before a child leaves home, and be ready to re-discuss when she finds how relevant your advice truly is:
- Tell your son or daughter to focus on who teaches, not just what is taught. Developing contact with faculty, especially in the area of research projects, can really improve educational options.
- Tell him to go to the school’s orientation, then be ready to talk about it afterward. The speaker will cover important issues beyond where each classroom is located, such as the fact that a student should study a minimum 2 hours a week for every hour of class attended that semester. Your child may scoff at this, but when he calls to say he got his first ‘D’ you might want to revisit the topic.
- Organize your life. Just like the last point, every student has to learn (or remember) that college means managing her own time and responsibilities. She also must be reminded that sleeping and eating well are requirements, not options.
- Listen when he whines about minor health issues. Students often put off going for medical help until minor situations become major—especially if they relate to stress and exhaustion.
- Remind your child that his roommate has rights, too. This could be the first time your college student has to live and relate to someone who doesn’t automatically love him unconditionally, and can be a big shock. Advise your child to talk about the issues with his roommate, but remind him he must be flexible as well.
- Tell your student what you expect her to earn toward her college expenses. Talk about how a job on-campus is better than one off-campus because it keeps him better connected to college life.
- Remind your child that being a copycat is wrong. Plagiarism is easier than ever before, thanks to the Internet. And when students are crunched for time, the temptation can be even greater. Specialized search engines quickly catch out the cheaters, and your child may find himself kicked out of class and out of school if he attempts this shortcut.
- Don’t try to micromanage, and know you can only do so much—it’s his life, after all. But keeping those lines of communication open—talking, texting, and emailing regularly—can make a first year away from home a little less overwhelming for everyone.