Is your child moving far away from home? Are you worried that he won’t be able to survive on his own? You may be frantic with worry, but there are a few things you can do to prepare him for his next stage of life. While you can’t foresee every single problem that your child will face at college, you can impart your parental wisdom and teach him three practical things to help him survive his first year away from home.
While safety isn’t the most exciting subject, it is certainly one of the most important. By teaching your child basic principles of safety, you can do your part to continue to protect her after she leaves home.
Your child should make a habit of knowing who to contact in case of an emergency. Once he arrives at school, make sure that he adds his RA’s phone number to his phone’s lists of contacts. He should also save the number for the college’s office of safety and security.
Even if your child attends a Christian school, she should still practice wisdom regarding personal security and safety. Remind your child to lock her door when she is not in his room or when she is sleeping, be cautious with strangers, and travel with a buddy if she has to go somewhere late at night.
It’s equally important to be realistic about the dangers of sex, drugs, and alcohol. Even on campuses where these activities are forbidden by the college and discouraged by the overall student culture, such things still happen, and it’s important for your student to be aware of the consequences of engaging in harmful or illegal activities.
You might be thinking to yourself, “My son would never do those things!” While you may be correct, your child should be aware that no campus is going to have zero students struggling with these issues—so he should be prepared to respond wisely should he encounter them. His planned response may range from simply saying “no” to notifying the student dean of forbidden activity, but your child needs to feel confident in his decision and have previously committed to doing so.
2. Money Management
College is a great time for your child to learn how to manage his money as a young adult. Whether he’s buying furniture for his room or spending time with friends, money will slip out of his hands faster than ever. College affords innumerable opportunities to participate in social and extracurricular activities—which means that students face constant decisions about whether or not to spend money.
Budgeting. Make sure that you and your child spend some time talking about the importance of financial stewardship and set a realistic budget for expenses. If you will be taking care of all his expenses, you may want to set a weekly or monthly budget. You will also want to distinguish between necessary expenses (textbooks, basic clothing items, snacks) and personal expenses (going to the movies, a daily Starbucks habit, eating out) for your child.
Even if your child has his own money saved up or will be working on campus, teach him the importance of budgeting, as it will help him know when to save and when to spend.
Credit and debit cards. Most likely, your child will need a debit card while away at college. Help him set up an account with a bank that has an ATM on campus or close by. If your child has both a debit card and a credit card, establish which card he is to use for necessary expenses and emergencies and which he should use for personal expenses.
Writing a check. Before your child goes away to college, make sure that he has a checkbook and knows how to write a check. It is a simple skill to learn, and it may prove to be useful in the event that he cannot make a payment online or on his card.
Last but not least, teach your child how to do laundry. It is astonishing how many students come to college without knowing how to separate whites from colors. You don’t want your child to be that guy who shows up wearing newly-pink socks or a sweater that’s shrunken just a bit too much. Send him off with rolls of quarters and the ability to wash and dry his own clothes properly.
These are a few basic things you can do to help your child before he settles into college. Most likely, your child will make mistakes. He may go over his budget or turn all of his socks pink. He may grow homesick or feel overwhelmed by his college workload. But the important thing to remember is that college is a period of learning and growth, and your child will experience many lessons that will help him grow as he transitions from a teen to a young adult.