College isn’t just a transition for your child – it’s a life-changing event for the entire family. For the first time, your child has complete and total responsibility for their own self, from arriving to class on time to getting a passing grade to making good choices on Friday and Saturday nights. Yet, they’re still under your care, protection and supervision, albeit from afar. So how do you manage your child without actually managing your child and get them ready for college?
1. Define Expectations
Over the course of several conversations, lay out what you expect from your teen when they leave for college. You may have financial expectations that you require you of your child – like paying for gas to get around town, late night pizza deliveries or coffee breaks. Discuss the costs that you’ll cover – maybe it’s gas money to get home for holidays or nothing at all. Just make sure you’re all on the same page financially. It’s also reasonable to expect your teen to perform well academically.
Whether that’s just passing each class or maintaining a 3.0 GPA or higher, it’s important for them to have a benchmark from you of some kind. “Oftentimes, students that don’t perform well get placed on academic probation by the university, which could lead to a suspension of scholarship, grant or financial aid funds” suggests teen life coach Sam Miller from Parenting Teenagers Academy. “Stress to your teen that it literally pays off to perform well in class.”
2. Structure & Discipline
Boundaries go both ways. For starters, this may be the first time your child is away from home and out of your care for an extended period of time. With that, they may be exposed to certain activities that they’ve never been around before. Not only do you need to prepare them for that, but you might want to reinforce healthy outlooks to the partying scene versus negative consequences.
At the same time, it’s important for you to set boundaries for yourself. College isn’t just about majoring in engineering or communications; it’s about shaping one’s self or identity. Sometimes, that entails some decision-making or exploration on their part that is completely out of your control. As parents, you have to let go and trust that they’ll fall back on the expectations you’ve set for them.
3. Setting Clear Goals
Finally, it doesn’t hurt to talk about the end goal before they set foot on a college campus. What is your family’s idea of the ultimate college experience? Is it graduating within four years or keeping a certain GPA? Is it studying abroad or getting a semester-long internship? Joining a Greek organization or playing soccer all four years?
Given that you’re likely paying for some or all of their college costs, it’s not too much to ask your teen to commit to certain ideas or values while they’re in college. While it is ultimately their college experience, you’re a huge part of that as their financial, emotional and physical support system. Committing to college together helps to reinforce that idea and gives your teen the motivation and security to make the most of their college career.
Remember, it is important to keep your teen motivated and excited for college. Show them stories of other people who are successful from their college experience. You can also read them some quotes that will help to inspire them to work hard.