Whether this is your first child or third to leave the nest, certain topics need to be covered and mental preparations to be made in order to help your incoming freshman smoothly navigate uncharted waters.
Preparing your child for a lifetime of smart decisions is what truly comprises good parenting. First, you’ll need to cover the basics, like expenses to be paid, meals, and how frequently to stay in touch.
There also are the health, safety, and personal wellness topics that must be broached honestly, from a mutual sense of trust. If your child’s high school years were turbulent, slowly build your rapport and work your way into a dialog.
Yes, your gregarious child may go radio silent on you. Establish a weekly Facetime or Zoom schedule with your kid – like Sundays at 5 pm – and make them stick with it.
Open a no-fee, debit card checking account for your teen. All banks offer teen or college checking options that are tied to an adult account. Their debit card will give them the independence to buy staples and meals out while also giving you oversight. Most college bank accounts are fee-free until age 25.
Be honest with your child about your finances. Set a budget and parameters for a monthly allowance. Share money-saving tips with them (like shopping for necessary items on sale). If you have a Walmart+ or Amazon account (or if your child’s school is in a shopping desert), consider drop-shipping staples like detergent or shampoo (and microwave popcorn!) to them once monthly.
Sign up together for the meal plan that suits the way your teen eats. Are they morning coffee-only, breakfast skippers? Then don’t sign up for 3-meals a day! Does the meal plan allow spending at on-campus restaurants as well as school cafeterias? Research and make sure your child’s plan fits their style and dietary needs.
Give a laundry refresher course, including how much detergent to use, what’s color-safe, and how not to shrink clothes in hot water. Send them off with a roll of quarters.
You and your teen have probably discussed ad nauseam their academic goals. But you need to talk with them about their social aspirations. Was your child a high school wallflower who now wants to branch out? Will they go through Greek Rush? Have they just come out to you and need to explore LGBTQ offerings? Listen to their concerns and goals, and then help them develop a personal plan to fulfill their emotional needs.
Making Smart Decisions
From TGIF keggers to off-campus concerts, potential trouble lurks for college students of all ages, but particularly more inexperienced freshmen. Make your child aware of their personal responsibilities both to themselves and others, and also who they can turn to for help on their campus (like their dorm RA or assistant dean). Cover alcohol and partying and personal boundaries.
Non-judgmentally, reopen the topic of safe sex. Regardless of gender identification, talk about condoms and the importance of having and using them, and also date rape, including “no means no.”
Speak with your child honestly about mental health and the campus resources available to them. Being physically active is a great way to maintain mental wellbeing.
Last, reassure your child that you trust them. Feelings of trust go a long way to helping a young adult feel confident and make smart decisions. And let them know you’re there for them whenever they need you.
Trevor Wisdom is a mom and native New Orleanian, and managing editor of Nola Family.