It seems like yesterday, it was a beautiful spring day, I was sitting in parent orientation for my oldest child, who was soon headed off to her Freshman year of college. Flash forward to today I am now sitting here dreading her graduation. But there is one memory that stands out from orientation day, our group leader asked us “How many of your kids know how to do their own laundry?”
Five of us raised our hands. No really, FIVE. There were at least sixty people in the room.
The leader gave out a nervous laugh and said, “Well, I guess now would be a good time to talk about preparing your kids for college life.”
All that time I was thinking to myself….WHAT?! Our kids will be headed off to college in just a couple short months and these kids should be ready! There are parents just thinking about this now?! Geez, and I thought I was in denial.
College preparedness goes way beyond which degree will I seek and how much money can I earn from said degree. Let’s take a step back and look at basic needs.
It’s the Simple Things
Laundry is important. Don’t let your child become “the stinky one” in the dorms. Spend some time showing them the finer points of sorting the reds from the whites (unless they want to walk around looking like pink cotton candy) and introduce them to laundry soap, remind them “this is the stuff that actually gets those clothes clean.” When preparing their going away supplies purchase a laundry bag, basket, soap, dryer sheets and a few rolls of quarters wouldn’t hurt either.
It’s time to move beyond boiling water, popcorn and top ramen in the microwave. Poor eating habits and “the Freshman 15” can quickly become a real concern. This may be the first time your new college student is responsible for making daily food decisions. Invest in some time with your child (it will slip through your fingers before you know it) and spend a little time with them on “Mom’s best food advice”.
Take them to the grocery store, ensure they understand the concept of shopping the perimeter of the store. Your healthier items like fruit, vegetables and proteins are around those outside edges. Also talk about a well-stocked pantry and give them a list of those items that could, and should, be kept on hand. Together, create a notebook of their favorite food ideas and some easy “college friendly” recipes so they always have a go-to for ideas. Items like veggie omelets, simple salads or pasta cooking ideas like sauce combos and ways to sneak more vegetables and fiber into the meal. If there is a grill available talk about some easy grilling ideas and 101 ways to cook beef or chicken.
Nevertheless, don’t forget to remind them that dishes don’t wash themselves. After days of sitting in the sink they could be categorized as the latest science experiment. For that supply bag you are filling, include some dish soap and a good scrub brush.
They are going to need several other items as well. They might be moving into a dorm, student housing or even sharing living space with others off campus. Whatever the situation, check into the amenities available and what supplies they may, or may not, have at their disposal.
Potentially other items to include on your list would be a bike with a strong lock. A refrigerator and microwave for those gourmet dinners you already showed them how to shop for and prepare. Some of the basics like an alarm clock, backpack and a desk lamp.
Finally, electronics make the world go round these days. Ensure they are prepared: a computer, preferably a laptop and maybe a tablet, a wireless printer and of course extension cords and a couple power strips. With those electronics review some digital tools that will make their lives easier as well. Consider DropBox to upload and access files, myHomework to organize coursework and Quizlet, a learning tool to help them study. Furthermore, college kids enjoy their entertainment on demand these days. Instead of a TV you might consider a membership with Netflix or Hulu Plus for entertainment.
Don’t forget some of the basics like weather appropriate clothing and bedding too!
Preparing your child for college life is key. Not only for them, but for your own peace of mind.
Join us for Part 2 where we will delve into some more serious topics.