leaves for college.
As the mother of two sons leaving for college in just a matter of weeks, I feel like time is slipping away
from me, and the time with my boys is already limited to the few minutes before they leave for work or
the conversation they have with me as they grab the car keys to go out for whatever is left to their
evening. Even though I know all of this is normal, I find that I crave more time with them, one because I
know my days are numbered and they will soon be leaving me, but also because there is so much I want
to share with them, wisdom, advice, tidbits that I am sure they need to know before they leave.
Hopefully at your house, you have found some time with your little cherubs and had some of these
important conversations. Here are a few that are on my list.
One of the most important to us parents, will be a conversation regarding contact, and how and when
that will happen throughout the time our children are in college. Every family will have different ideas
of what seems a reasonable amount of times that communication between home and school occur. In
our house, we have agreed that some sort of face to face (Facetime or Skype) will happen every Sunday
night. The expectation is that for all of us, this is a priority but also an understanding that flexibility is
important. This kind of communication is not only important for parents and the students who are
away, but also for siblings who are used to conversing and sharing inside jokes and family stories
whenever they want. Younger siblings need to know they are not forgotten and are still an important
part of the lives of their college siblings. We have also agreed that weekday texts are fine as long as not
constant or interfering. I can live with these parameters!
Finances are something I touched on in the last blog. Specifically two areas I feel need to be discussed.
Will your student get a student credit card? Do you have to or will you co-sign for their credit card?
What will the credit card by used for? Who is responsible for paying the monthly bill? Will it be used
only for emergencies? In our house, we will get our boys a student credit card with a very small limit
(say $500). We believe giving them this small step to adulthood and financial responsibility is important.
For years they have managed a debit card, which we have watched over carefully. Getting a credit card
is the next obvious step and one that will help them with earning credit, something not a lot of parents
or students think about at this age. Speaking of credit cards, finance and who is responsible for what is
another very important conversation to have with your student. Will they open a bank account on
campus for getting money and depositing paychecks in? Are they responsible for their spending money,
and what is a goal or a reasonable amount that they will need? Will you deposit money into the account
and what will you in fact pay for? Discussing budgets and what costs they will incur is part of the whole
For those students who live far away from school, this next topic is not as important. However, for those
living close enough to come home often, a discussion about how often returning home is reasonable and
expected. Some students come home every weekend to see old friends who are still at home. Others
come home for weekend jobs and even others come home because that is where they feel more
comfortable and where they want to spend their time. There is no wrong or right answer to this;
however, parents may have a thought about this that completely contradicts what their student is
thinking. A conversation about visiting is a must for these families.
The topic that parents tend to discuss the least is the topic of sex. Unfortunately many families do not
feel comfortable discussing this topic and often parents would rather not think their child will be
participating in this activity. Please, don’t miss out on this opportunity to talk with your student about
being safe and respectful. Some parents will provide students with birth control while others will discuss
their desire for complete abstinence. Whatever it may be, having an open and honest conversation can
go a long way.
Although there are a dozen more topics to discuss but another very important one is to lay out the
expectations for when your student comes home for vacation. I am sure most of you have heard the
moans and groans of parents whose children came home for Thanksgiving and within days; these
parents wanted them to return to school. It is a hard adjustment for all involved, parents, siblings and
the returning prodigal child. Try to discuss the issues that may arise (curfew, rules, respect,
communication etc.) beforehand so that miscommunication and hurt feelings are limited. Agree on
time spent with family versus time spent with friends. Explain that younger siblings and relatives will
want their fair share of their attention and there are a certain amount of family obligations that they are
expected to be present at.
As promised there are also more things on the to-do list for these college bound students to cross off
their list. Here is a brief explanation and list.
- Laundry – teach your child how to do laundry and discuss a plan as to how often it will be done. Tip: Buy lots of socks and underwear before they leave for school.
- Figure out a system for – time management, organization, deadlines, and requirements. There are planners and phone calendars, it doesn’t matter which they use, give them lots of different ideas.
- Contact information – It is very important to get the cell number of your child’s roommate, their parents, and also to give your number to the roommate. You never know in an emergency, how important it is to have this information.
- Buy a lanyard – This can be done at orientation or at moving in day. This is very important so that keys and ID cards can always be accessible. Some schools are now providing little pockets that go on the back of your student’s cell phone for school IDs. I think having a lanyard is a better bet and less likely to be taken or lost. When your student sees all the students wearing them, they will realize they need one too.
- Work Study- Most students who are eligible for work study jobs on campus can start searching for what is available. Make your work study job count. Don’t just sit at the desk at the gym and check people in, use the time to your advantage to get ahead. Try finding something in the career center. You will be the first to see the new internship opportunities and you will have forged a relationship with the staff that will help you out in the future. Another idea is to work in the school of your major. If you are a business major than you can try and get a job at the business school. Again, you may hear of opportunities that most won’t have firsthand knowledge about and the relationships with the business school staff in irreplaceable.
- Living Will, Health Proxy and Power of Attorney – Although this is harder to write about, I think it is something most of us with 18 year old college bound students, don’t think about. These documents are important as our children are now adults. All the decisions we have made for them for years are no longer are ours to make. The reason these documents are important to complete is in case something happens to our child(ren) and we need to make medical and or financial decisions for them. The forms you need can be obtained on the internet. Simply fill them out and sign them in front of a notary. You will never regret being prepared, and unfortunately for some of us, it could be a life saver.
I know this is a long blog but there is much to share. I will end this series next month with my last “Need
to Know” items for our little cherubs.