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Launching a College Freshman
Being the parent of a college freshman can be difficult for parents. Your worries range from the practical—is the dorm safe, are the classes too hard or too easy—to the emotional—will my child make friends. Parents who have made this transition urge you to talk freely with your child, both before he or she goes to college and during the year. It is important to keep open lines of communication without hovering.
Remember that your student probably will be handling many things that you previously handled, or at least supervised. Websites dedicated to college parents suggest a variety of discussion topics, including:
Communication between you and your student. Before your student leaves, you should speak in a general sense about how you both expect to communicate once he or she is at school. Should you call, or should your student? Or does it matter? Does either of you want to set limits on when you can call or on what topics you can cover? And are you both comfortable with those limits? Then, continue to monitor your communication once the student is in college, to make sure your plan is still working for both of you.
Spending money. Again, before your student leaves you should both have an understanding of who is paying for what, and how. Does your student have a credit card? If so, who pays the bills? Are you monitoring your student’s spending? Most students have at least some difficulty handling spending money once they get to college. The temptations are great, from late-night pizza to that sweatshirt in the bookstore. So be prepared to have this discussion more than once.
Visits home. If your students goes to college far from home, this probably is less of an issue because the cost and hassle of air travel place some limits. But if your child is within driving distance, especially if he or she has a car or a friend with a car, this is a discussion you need to have. How often does your student expect to come home, and how often do you expect to see your student? Most experts believe that you should discourage too-frequent visits home until the student has had a chance to adjust to college.
Similarly, discuss the behavior you expect from your student when he or she is home. Your student is coming home after being more or less independent—no curfews, no direct supervision. That first visit home is often a shock to both parents and kids. So talk about what you expect, and explain your reasons why. Be prepared to talk about this on an ongoing basis.
Grades. After all, college is first and foremost about getting an education. But most college classes are unlike many high school classes. For example, there is often less daily homework and more emphasis on a few tests and papers. If your child is a natural procrastinator, discuss the importance of keeping track of what is due when. Remind your child that colleges have lots of help available to students who are struggling, and encourage your child to take advantage of that help. And remember that you won’t get a notice if your student is in academic trouble. In fact, you won’t even get your student’s grades without his or her permission.
Health care. This is another area that you probably took care of before your student headed off. At the very least, make sure your child knows about any allergies or sensitivities, and how his or her insurance works. It also is a good idea to have a discussion about how you know when you need to go to the doctor.