For many families, sending your child off to college is the last major step in making the transition into adulthood. While move-in day can be a monumental occasion and filled with a range of mixed emotions, it’s important that you’ve adequately prepared your child for the increased sense of independence that college will provide them. Young adults continue to develop and grow in independence throughout their college years; however, they still require their parents to impart upon them a solid foundation of practical, logical, and social skills in order to become successful adults. Your child need not enter college as an expert plumber who quickly knows how to unclog a sink, but it’s essential to prepare your child to become a resourceful and autonomous adult who knows how to bring problems to solutions. Below are six of the most important skills that you can teach your child before sending him or her off to college.
How to Budget Money
Because children during their upbringing typically only receive money as allowances and gifts, their perception of the true value of a dollar can be skewed. Do not allow your child to depend on you as a parent or other relatives as a constant source of income. Encourage him or her to acquire a part-time job before enrolling in college in order to get a better sense of what it means to exchange work for income. Furthermore, even if your child has had a part-time job before moving to college, his or her budgeting categories may only be limited to two columns, spending, and saving. Start teaching your child to set money aside for food, clothing, car payments, cell phone service, and even housing expenses. You may work out a plan to still contribute to your child’s financial resources while in college, but you must train your still-growing young adult to understand basic budgeting techniques and the full value of a dollar.
Time Management Skills
Just like budgeting money, time management is an essential skill set that your child should be prepared to handle in the college setting. Unlike high school, college presents children with a lot of free time. Classes may not be scheduled every day, and the volume of work required throughout the semester may be much greater than what they have experienced in high school. Teach your child the importance of attending class, keeping an agenda, spreading responsibilities throughout the week, and avoiding procrastination. When a child has poor time management skills, he or she may fall into the habit of creating an extra-booked schedule, cutting class, missing deadlines, and creating excuses for poorly-managed time.
Car and Navigation Skills
Although you may have taught your child how to drive a car and even pay for memberships for roadside assistance, your child should know much more about cars beyond how to turn the steering wheel and how to pump gas. Often times students in college drive hand-me-down family vehicles and used cars that are not always the most reliable. Teaching your child a lesson in how to use jumper cables, how to change a car tire, and how to take a car into a mechanic for repairs are essential if he or she will have a car on campus. Also, due to reliance on GPS technology and navigation services, your child should have a decent grasp of understanding road systems and how to read a map. It’s impossible to know when technology will fail, so relying on traditional maps and having a strong internal compass may at one point be your child’s best bet when lost.
Respect and Courtesy
When your child moves into college, chances are he or she will be sharing a room with a roommate. While colleges try their best to match roommates based on personalities and routines, it is not always a guarantee that the two are going to be best friends. However, your child needs to understand how to be respectful and courteous to others while living in a shared space. He or she should know how to clean up after himself, appropriately handle conflict, take responsibility, and offer apologies when necessary.
Likewise, in college, your child will be meeting and interacting with a wide range of adults, including professors, administrators, and college support staff. Your child should know how to interact properly with adults on a daily basis. Encourage your child to always be polite and mannerly, and emphasize the importance of respecting others who are in a position of authority. So many children come to college without the ability to even properly compose a formal email to their professors, let alone speak with them directly. Helping your child understand that there is a level of courtesy when adults interact will adequately prepare him or her to make this transition.
How to Cook and Do Laundry
If your child is about to move into college and has never prepared a meal or never washed a load of laundry in their life, you have a problem. Make sure that your child knows how to prepare a basic meal or two using an appliance that does not have a popcorn setting. Some children go off to college without even knowing how to boil water to make instant noodles, and this is an embarrassment. The same applies to laundry. If your child does not know how to separate whites from colored clothes or does not know what materials are sensitive to a full dryer cycle, at least take advantage of the summer before college to help your child learn how to wash and dry clothes. You do not want for your child to come home every weekend or during breaks with a huge load of dirty laundry that he or she expects for you to clean for him.
Autonomous Problem Solving
As parents, we want to look out for our children and make sure that we can assist them in any way possible. However, if we have made it a constant expectation for them throughout their lives that mom and dad will resolve any situation, they will have never learned how to face challenges and resolve problems for themselves. At this point in your child’s life, direct him or her toward resources instead of immediately solving a problem your responsibility. In order to be functional adults, children need to be able to seek answers on their own and take personal initiative. This is not to say that you will not be available to offer advice. However, children who rely on their parents to do everything for them will ultimately be crippled by their lack of autonomy and more prone to facing anxieties both in college and the adult world.