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Monday, February 6, 2023

My Baby

Have you made it to the milestone of sending a fledgling off to college? Congratulations on a job well done!

Here are some tips for enjoying a new phase in your relationship:

A Week at a Time

If your child’s college is close to home, many students start off with the idea that college is something they do Monday through Friday, and they pick up where they left off at home on the weekends. Friends, jobs, food, sleep and laundry get the attention they’ve missed during each week. Being in transition yourself, this may make it easier on both of you. But, remember, your son or daughter is using home as a pit stop along a course that will require less and less refueling as he starts to get the feel of the track. Soon enough, high school buddies drift apart as new friends are made in class and in the dorms.  Employment that once fit a high schooler’s needs – restaurant work, babysitting, retail sales –get replaced by on or near campus jobs. After a month or so, your student settles in to a new way of living until, eventually, a weekend at home becomes the exception.  Somehow, through necessity, the college resident figures out how to find food, how to get sufficient sleep, and how to work a coin-operated laundry machine.   

Money Management

Each family has their own financial situation, however, it is important for an independent young adult to learn how to manage his finances. Be clear about what you can support – cell phone, car insurance, wardrobe, etc., as well as tuition, books, housing, dining hall expenses – and work toward his taking on responsibility for more and more of his own needs. Some families set up a “loan” system, whereby debts incurred to parents during college are repaid after graduation and landing a job. Obviously, money he has earned himself will be more carefully tended than someone else’s money, so setting a budget limit or a loan agreement will keep things in check, and help him to develop wise spending habits.

Crisis Management

Picking a college and declaring a major might seem like the most important issues for life after high school. But just around that corner there could be an outbreak of meningitis, a computer crash, an identity theft, a romantic disaster, or a hurricane. What’s a parent back home to do?  To make yourself feel better, find out about on-campus services that would help your child cope with an emergency. Many colleges understand they are supporting the “whole” needs of an 18-year-old, particularly those who are far from home. Health and mental health services are built into campus life, with easy access and quality care. And for those times when Mom or Dad are key to handling a crisis, make sure your student knows how to get hold of you. Though he’s left the nest thinking his parents don’t know much about anything,
over the next couple of years, he’ll be quite impressed with how much
you’ve learned.

By Deborah Wood, PhD.

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