In Part One we discussed the importance of preparing our kids for college, covering the finer points of laundry (red + white = pink), the “Freshman 15” and moving beyond Top Ramen.
Also included were several suggestions for your supply list like a bike, computer and a membership to Netflix.
These things might seem simple, however they are important. But we were just getting started. Let’s move onto some more serious topics.
It’s the Complicated Things Too…Like Money
If you haven’t already started, it’s imperative to discuss money. Without a proper discussion about the finer points of the “emergency credit card” you might discover a charge on your card for that time your student decided to buy pizza for the entire dorm.
Hey, even the best finance majors can be horrible at managing money.
We opened a teen checking and savings account for our daughter when she was in high school. There was a built in budgeting tool for her to categorize her spending and see where her money was going. (For awhile most of it went to the local coffee stand/hangout.) She eventually learned about budgeting–paying herself by making regular deposits into her savings account–and we could monitor her expenditures. When she went to college we upgraded her to a next level account, however we were still listed on the account so we could help monitor and transfer money to her, when needed.
If you feel like a credit card is important during this time, consider a secured card. This option utilizes a cash deposit that becomes the credit line. As parents, you can do research and find a card that fits best for your college student. Still don’t forget to discuss how credit cards truly work and the damage that can be done by racking up debt at an early age.
Sex & Drugs
If you haven’t covered the topic of sex by now, do NOT, I repeat do NOT, wait any longer. Sexual relationships are going to happen while your student is at college. Talk to you children about safe sex. I know for some, this is a complicated and touchy subject, most campuses have on site services and resources for students that include birth control options and testing for sexually transmitted diseases. Check into the health services that are offered on campus. Do your best to keep the communication lines open.
Again, educating your soon-to-be college student is imperative. If, up to this point, you have not had a conversation about drug and alcohol abuse, do not let them leave the nest without a serious conversation.
Unfortunately college students contribute to one of the larger groups of drug abusers nationwide. Students can turn to drugs for a number of reasons including stress, curiosity and peer pressure. Some of the most common choices are alcohol, marijuana and ecstasy. Starting a dialogue about alcohol poisoning and drunk driving may better prepare them, but if students do screw up, don’t panic. This can be a result of exploration and the newfound sense of independence that your student is experiencing. Again, keep the communication lines open and don’t turn a blind eye if you suspect your student is having a problem.
It will happen, your new college student is going to get sick. They are probably running on a lack of sleep, a healthy dose of stress and unfortunately some of those poor eating habits we already talked about in Part 1. College students live in small spaces and share bathrooms. So how does one stay well when surrounded by sick people? Remind your student to get a flu shot, some campuses may offer them at no charge. That old standby of washing your hands often has never been bad advice. Remind them how important it is to sleep and eat right.
The state of your student’s mental health should be monitored as well. College is supposed to be an exciting time but it can also induce feelings of anxiety, depression or potentially lead to eating disorders and other problems and mental symptoms can impact our student’s physical health as well.
There are some red flags that you should be on the watch for such as a withdrawal from friends and family. If your student is experiencing large changes (beyond the normal) in eating and sleeping patterns or you are noticing reckless and impulsive behaviors it may be time to intervene. If you notice regular crying or lack of attention to personal hygiene, these too can be warning signs.
Understand that these signs are not always universal. The key is to establish an open communication line and to set those expectations before your student leaves for school. It is not unreasonable to set up a schedule with your student for regular check-ins at pre-planned intervals.
If you feel like a completely open dialogue with your soon-to-be college student is not currently on the table consider some other resources. When our daughter was headed to school we purchased “The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College” by Harlan Cohen. But don’t stop there, lists exist with several other books on coping with college.