Let’s be honest: at some point in your life — probably on the day when little Mikey got into the cupcakes for the school bake sale and licked frosting off each one before proceeding to wipe his face on the white kitchen curtains — you couldn’t wait for this season of life to come. But now that it’s here, you might be worried, sad and wondering if you’ve prepared him well enough to face the challenges of college on his own. Here are five things to help you, and him, get ready for when leaving home:
Teach Them to Manage Money
Asking for more money is one of the main reasons students call home. As early as possible, help your child learn to budget so that these calls for cash are far and few between. Make sure it’s clear as to who’s paying for tuition, books and miscellaneous living expenses before he gets the keys to his dorm room.
Also allowing him to get a credit card during the last year of high school is a good way to help him learn about using plastic wisely. This also reduces the likelihood that he’ll start signing up for offers on campus, which means giving out his social security number and increasing the chance that his identity could be stolen. LifeLock identity theft protection service says that in 2011, 23 percent of identity theft complaints were filed by consumers between the ages of 20 and 29.
Buy Them a Planner
One of the biggest challenges that students face when they first leave home is time management. With half a dozen professors assigning numerous projects and papers, plus extracurricular activities and a part-time job, it’s essential your child know how to work ahead so that he’s not pulling a series of all-nighters the week before mid-term when the first round of papers come due. Plus, a planner can help him stay on top of things like bills, birthdays, and contact information.
Update Your Insurance Policies
If little Mike is taking his bike, not his car, to school, update your car insurance policy so he’s listed as a part-time driver (instead of a full-time one) so that you’re not paying for a service you’re not using. Also, be sure he knows where to go for medical care, and that he has the necessary documents so he can receive care that’s covered by your insurer.
Speak positively about this new chapter in your child’s life, but don’t say things like, “these will be the best four years of your life!” because, for some, college is a difficult time. If your child ends up struggling, and you’re always talking about how great the experience is, he may feel guilty, which makes matters worse.
One of the best ways to keep in touch is to send text messages or photos from home. You don’t have to worry about interrupting him, no one has to know that “mom’s calling” and he can reply at his convenience. Plus, there’s nothing more comforting than the reassurance that everything’s OK back home.
Send Care Packages
An article from the Huffington Post suggests foregoing the overpriced school-created boxes and making your own. When you’re at the grocery store, pick up a few packs of his favorite cookies, beef jerky and gum to send. Other great additions to care packages are notes from younger siblings, gift cards to local restaurants and coffee shops, rolls of quarters for laundry and issues of his favorite magazines. Try to mail the package so that it arrives right before mid-terms or finals — times when college kids need a little pick-me-up.
With these tips, and careful planning, you’ll be able to send your child off to college knowing full well that he’ll be able to get by without you. Sure, you may still shed a few tears — that’s to be expected — but rest assured you’ve done your best to arm him with the knowledge he needs.