It’s finally time for your child to head off to college, and you’re helping them prepare for their next steps. You’ve bought the textbooks, hunted for dorm essentials, paid for the food plan, and helped them pick their classes.
Before you say goodbye, though, remember that college is full of new experiences that will be unfamiliar to your kid. In order to help them feel prepared, sit down and have these four conversations before they head to the ivory tower.
Sexual Health and Safety
One critical conversation you should have with your child is about sexual health and safety. Rising college students may be familiar with these subjects but lack the experience to consistently put them into practice. Consent, for example, is a complicated but necessary topic to discuss to help your child understand their own and others’ boundaries. Talk about the importance of being honest about themselves and their needs with a partner and being receptive to the same.
In addition to consent, you’ll want to talk over different methods of protection your child can use in sexual situations. This includes condoms, birth control, emergency contraception, IUDs, implants, etc. Discussing condoms and prevention or treatment options also helps reduce stigma around STIs like herpes. The truth is, STIs are common, and rather than fearing them, your child can pursue treatment without feeling embarrassed.
STIs are nothing to be ashamed about, and certain solutions like a genital herpes treatment are conveniently accessible. Sharing this topic with your child will also help them be comfortable coming to you to discuss personal issues. In the end they will be assured that if they are in such a situation, they’re safe.
How to Party Responsibly
The next important conversation should be about drinking and partying, which (mostly) vastly differs from that of high school. You may not fully approve, but you know partying is going to happen. After all, you probably weren’t immune to partying peer pressure at that age, either. Help your soon-to-be college student understand their limits by discussing with them the bodily signs that they have had enough. Also, consent is once again relevant in this conversation as a way to showcase the dangers of peer pressure.
You should also go over the signs of alcohol and drug overdose in case of a dangerous situation. Help your child protect themselves and others by discussing safe limits and how to react if drinking goes too far. Make sure they know there should always be a sober person on hand to help those who are under the influence. Other important topics include personal protection measures: watching your drink at all times, creating safety signals with friends, etc.
Of course, while the danger of drinking and driving is common knowledge, underscore just how important a designated driver is. Whether they have a friend who doesn’t drink or the designated driver role is a rotating assignment, a sober chauffeur can be life-saving. If they haven’t identified one, then it’s safer and smarter not to go out at all.
Proper Financial Management
Your child’s transition from the family home to the relative independence offered by college can be a jarring experience. Parents often still support their children financially. But without your guidance, it’s easy to take that money for granted. Take the time to teach your child the importance of money and the benefits of using it mindfully.
A day of shopping or an unexpected large purchase can blow up a student’s budget in no time. There are plenty of ways to save money while still having fun at college. Give your kid a spending budget that takes into account some “fun money” for movies, sporting events, or late-night pizza runs. Learn about deals for students from local businesses that can save them a lot on food and activities. With their student ID, your child can take advantage of the myriad offers available.
You can also explain student loans, budgeting, methods to get cheaper class materials, side jobs, and how to save some dough. The truth is, your student will probably overspend at some point, so turn those instances into learning opportunities. After all, it’s easier to learn from mistakes that you have made rather than learning to prevent them.
Keeping Up With Schoolwork
College can be exciting. It’s also a good opportunity to help your child form good routines and habits thanks to their newfound independence. There are so many new things to see and do on top of new learning structures, activities, and opportunities. The experience is arguably as educational outside the classroom as inside — but that doesn’t negate the importance of studying. While classes are spaced out and the days are shorter than high school, learning is still the main focus.
This can be difficult at first because each day’s open structure makes it easy for experiences to blend together. Help your kid understand that separating school and play is a good way to keep them focused on their responsibilities. For example, a student can kick back in the dorm and go to the library when they need to work. This balance is important for them to maintain their mental health and the quality and benefits of their studies.
You can also discuss ways to manage time when they are struggling to do so. Specifying blocks when they will be hanging out versus studying will help them transition between tasks more easily. A healthy schedule, or at least an idea of how they’ll spend each day, is a great ingredient for success.
It’s time to say goodbye to your kid as they head off for their new life at school. As anxiety-inducing as it can be, take solace in the conversations you’ve had with your child. You’ve prepared them as best you could for 18 years of their life. Now with these must-have conversations out of the way, they can use that knowledge for the next four years and beyond.