It’s a time not only filled with unbridled enthusiasm and anticipation but a healthy dose of stress, fatigue and uncertainty.
Change of this magnitude is typically a two-sided coin and the transition to college (and the first genuine footstep into adulthood) certainly plays on the emotions from all sides of the spectrum.
In many cases, the move to college also means the first big move to life away from home. Change is coming at them from all directions. Your teen will need to balance a challenging academic load with making new friends, adapting to an unfamiliar environment and perhaps even a part-time job. That’s a lot to take in! And while significant life changes like this are undoubtedly exciting, they can also give way to feelings of anxiety, insecurity and self-doubt.
Compounding matters is that according to a recent study published by ScienceDirect, in 2020 – 2021, >60% of students met criteria for one or more mental health problems, a nearly 50% increase from 2013. Preparing your teen with the skills and support needed before heading off to the new school will go miles towards ensuring a smooth and healthy transition to college life.
The truth is that change is a constant throughout life. This might be your child’s biggest life event yet but, guaranteed, there will be many more big life events down the road during adulthood. Experiencing, coping and mastering the transition to college will give your child the life skills they need to manage adult-sized change and stress, conquer uncertainty and learn how to embrace the moment.
Here are some ways parents can help their kids prepare for college and get the most – academically, emotionally and spiritually – throughout their college years.
Have an honest heart-to-heart about their expectations before they leave Make time to brew a fresh pot of coffee and sit down with your teen for some honest dialogue on their hopes and fears. Don’t be judgemental; if possible, don’t even be parental. Speak eye-to-eye, ask questions that come from the heart and, most of all, be a good listener. Ask first before offering advice. This sit-down will help your child process everything while letting them know that you’re there for them, first and always.
Develop a communication plan While they’re out of sight they will never be out of your mind; that much is certain. For them, however, they’re dealing with a whirlwind of changes and new responsibilities. During any given day, they’re processing classroom topics that require greater concentration and dedication, new friends and social circles, and focusing on some of the life responsibilities they may have taken for granted while living at home such as food, cleaning and laundry. So while you may want to text, phone or Facetime them daily, that’s likely unrealistic for them with everything else they have going on. Develop a communication plan, especially at the beginning of their journey, so that you can be there to support them and know that everything’s ok without becoming that cringy smothering parent.
Develop a financial plan It’s just as important to make sure you’re all on the same financial wavelength. At some point before they leave, together you’ll need to review how their money and miscellaneous living expenses will be handled and set up a financial plan. It’s important for everyone to be on the same page regarding who pays for what, and where that money comes from. Review the budgeting strategies they’ve learned from Snow Cloud’s Replicated Reality platform and explore scenarios on how they can put those important tools to use with their new-found independence. Additionally, if they don’t already have a checking account, now’s the time to check that off the to-do list. Most banks offer low-cost accounts for college students that keep fees down so make sure to explore all your options.
Send care packages However much independence your child craves, a little love from home will always hit its mark. Receiving a special package in the mail is always an exciting moment, and one from home filled with a few of their favorite things in life will undoubtedly lift their spirits higher. Home-baked cookies are always a great idea, perhaps some of their favourite goodies from a local store, a surprise article of clothing, even a little trinket can all send a message that words cannot. Speaking of which, make sure to include a card with some encouraging words to let them know how proud you are of their accomplishments.
Take time to reflect This isn’t just a big moment in your child’s life, it’s a big moment for you, too. Feel good about everything you’ve done to help bring your child to this incredible milestone. It’s ok to know you’ll miss them but it’s also ok to give yourself a pat on the back for the role you’ve played in supporting their transition to adulthood. This new chapter in your life may also free up some time to invest greater focus on your younger children or spouse, put more energy into your career or explore a new hobby or activity you’ve always dreamed of.