Millions of parents will be sending their kids off to college in just a month or two and that experience can seem a little overwhelming for many families.
It’s emotional. Your son or daughter is leaving and if they are the youngest in the family then it will leave you with an empty nest.
It’s stressful. They’re not quite full-blown adults, but they are pretty much on their own now and taking on a whole new level of responsibility.
It should also be exciting. College is a formative experience. Your son or daughter is going to meet lifelong friends, discover new interests and passions, find out what it is they want out of life, and (hopefully) eventually come home with a diploma.
Before you drop them off at the dorm, however, there is a checklist of general preparedness items you should run through to make sure they’re as ready as they can be for college life.
Teach your child the basics of doing laundry. Many a college freshman has ruined a favorite T-shirt because they failed to understand the importance of separating whites and colors.
Go over the detergents, dryer sheets and stain removers they’ll need to always have on hand. Explain why it’s important to check the labels to see if an item can be machine washed. And when you’ve gone through all the basics, send them off with a huge bag of quarters for the laundry machine.
No 18-year-old college freshman is going to be a master budgeter, but it is important they understand some money basics so they don’t bust the bank on late-night pizza runs in the first semester.
Set up a bank account for them and discuss how much money they have to spend and how to spend it wisely. Also make sure they know how to access funds for legitimate emergencies.
Most college freshmen will start out on a meal plan, but it wouldn’t hurt to teach them to cook a few basic things just in case. Plus, they’ll be a dorm hero if they whip up a pot of spaghetti for their floor.
It’s probably wishful thinking to hope that your child will be loading up on fruits and vegetables every day, but at least try to emphasize how food affects our brains so that they make at least some effort to eat a balanced diet and ward off that dreaded “freshman 15.”
Map out the campus
It’s a good idea, especially if your child is going to a bigger college, to take a tour of the campus well before the first day of class so they’re not so overwhelmed on day 1.
Find all the buildings where their classes are located and make sure they know how to get back to the dorm. Map out the cafeteria, medical clinic and campus bookstore. Then scope out important off-campus locations like the nearest grocery store and bank.
It is tough seeing your kid leave the house and it’s common for parents to experience some separation anxiety. But regardless, it’s time to grant them some freedom and let them spread their wings. You don’t want to be calling them a half dozen times a day to constantly check in on things.
Instead, try to work out a regular daily or weekly time that you can call and chat. That way you’ll be regularly kept in the loop about how things are going and they won’t feel like you’re constantly badgering them.
With your child out on their own, the fact of the matter is that outside of refusing to pay tuition checks, you no longer control their approach to education. If they want to blow off class and stay out every night partying, that’s probably what they’re going to do.
But have a true heart-to-heart conversation with them about the importance of getting an education. Explain how you’ve worked hard to save up money to send them to college and that it is important for them to take this seriously if they’re going be successful in life.
It’s only natural for you to worry about your child as they set out on their own for the first time. You’re their dad and that’s your job.
But you’ve spent years raising them for this. It sends the wrong message to send them out to soar only to break into hysteria as soon as they leave.
Say your goodbyes, hug, and shed a couple tears if you must. But then let them go and trust that they’re going to do what you’ve helped prepare them to do.