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5 Crucial Conversations Before College to Have With Your Child

by | Jun 28, 2023 | Parenting, Adult Children

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5 Conversations Before College

It’s almost the big day – the day you take your child to college. You have the dorm room stuff. And you have already stocked up on Kleenex for the good-bye, but what else do you need to do to get ready?

Go through these 5 Conversations Before College drop off and discuss these topics with your soon-to-be college student.

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Conversations before college
5 Crucial Conversations Before College to Have With Your Child 6

5 Conversations Before College: What do I tell my child before college?

#1 Conversations Before College: Money

You need to talk about money. What are you paying for? What are they paying for? And how will the money they need get to them? It may be the first time in their life they are truly managing more money than a small allowance. They will be faced with temptations like going out for pizza and burgers every night instead of eating the school cafeteria food you paid for.

Be very clear in your conversations what exactly you are paying for especially if they are given a credit or debit card for which you pay the bill. Fortunately in the days of texting it is pretty easy for them to text you and ask, “Is it ok if I buy…?” Another money system is a monthly allowance. When the money is gone, they can wait until next month for more money or call and plead their case for why they need more.

Do you expect them to get a job and contribute to their living expenses?

Be sure to discuss the school book store and the very long list of items they will be told they have to have for each class. The textbook companies have figured out the used books scheme and now require “codes” for online access to their materials. Some majors like the sciences require a lot more “codes.” They will have to have these highway robbery codes, BUT they do not need every study aid listed on the guide from the school. Tell them to wait on all but the required items and see what they really need before they buy it all.

#2 Conversations Before College: Alcohol

Alcohol flows freely on most college campuses to both the of age and the underage. What are your expectations? These should be clearly stated. The consequences of violating your expectations should also be clearly stated. You are the parent and you have the right to set expectations and consequences for violating your expectations for grades, alcohol, and any other issues.

But reassure them you are concerned for their safety above all and will be in their corner no matter what kind of trouble they are in whether they have lived up to your expectations or not.

#3 Conversations Before College: Medical Emergencies

Even if your child still wants you to make their dentist appointments for them and they have no interest in managing their own healthcare, they are a full legal adult. If they want you to be informed or to have your help with medical issues, THEY have to make that happen.

Even with HIPAA documents signed no one is going to call you and tell you your child went to the health clinic or to the ER unless they ask them to. In the case of an emergency where they are not conscious emergency contacts or the next of kin will be contacted. One common misunderstanding is that once you have a HIPAA document it is a binding contract. It is not. Your child can revoke it at any time by only saying, “do not call my parents.”

Think of it like this: You may have HIPAA documents and Power of Attorney documents in place with your spouse or emergency contact. The doctor does not call your spouse to inform them every time you have an appointment. Your adult child will be treated the same as you are. There are no documents you can have your child sign which take away their “adult rights” unless you can show incompetence. The flow of information has to be part of your relationship. (You can tell them, “I will not pay your tuition if you do not share your grades with me,” but you cannot make them legally share them or their medical information. Does this make sense?)

The legal documents can be used if you call a medical facility and ASK for information. And unless your child has revoked them with the clinic or hospital, they will most likely tell you what is going on.

Your child needs to know to put you as their emergency contact on any and every piece of paper they fill out that asks for one.

(A resource that we highly recommend is Mama Bear Legal Forms. They have easily fillable and downloadable forms that can also be put on their app for on-the-go situations. Mel has used these forms for all 3 of her boys. All you have to do is get them notarized. The cost is a fraction of what you would spend on an attorney to do the same things! Again, this will depend on whether or not the relationship with your child is amenable to this…)

Read about our son’s appendectomy during his junior year of college and how medical information was handled.

#4 Conversations Before College: Life Skills

Does your child have a clue how to do their own laundry or know what to do if their car breaks down and you are several hours away? (If they have never done their own laundry, have them start doing it this summer.)

Go over some other basic life skills like how to cook in the dorm with the microwave without blowing the place up. Keep these talks brief because they most likely will be rolling their eyes and not listening anyway. Let them know they can call or text at anytime and you encourage them to do so. They are transitioning from childhood to adulthood. No question is too dumb or will be greeted with irritation. You are there to help when they need it.

Stuck by the side of the road? Call Mom or Dad. You burned popcorn in the microwave and everyone on the hall is mad about the smell, call Mom or Dad. Your throat hurts? Call. Some things will have to be learned through experience and guidance at the time it is ocurring.

#5 Conversations Before College: Safety

Staying safe is probably your number one concern for your college student. They will have new freedom and will want to take it for a spin. Remind them of the basics.

Don’t walk around alone at night on campus or the college town. Have an exit plan with your friends for uncomfortable situations. Call anytime!

Sometimes we think safety is falls in the “what to talk to daughter about before college,” but be sure to address these issues with your son as well.

#6 Bonus Conversations Before College: Communication

The final important conversation before college is communication with you. It is an expectation. They need to return your texts in a somewhat timely manner. Do you want to set a time to talk each week or keep it more fluid. Some kids will be calling and texting every day anyway. Others will not return your texts until you demand “proof of life.”

Whatever your expectation is, communicate it. Keep it reasonable, but let them know how often you expect them to check in. Be satisfied with their texts when that is how they want to talk to you. Understand college keeps them around others almost all the time. Our daughter would call when she was driving around or go out to her car to “really talk.” They cannot always speak freely.

Your son or daughter is about to embark on a huge adventure. That adventure usually involves separating from many of the things you used to do for them or had daily control over. It is a nervous time for both of you. Give them some grace, but also do not expect them to guess your expectations. It is never fair to expect someone to jump through invisible hoops. There may be some bumps, but the road will begin to smooth throughout the year.

Related posts for 5 Conversations Before College:

What to Do if Your College Student has a Medical Emergency

When You Have an 18 Year Old: Important Information to Have

College Dorm Room Essentials – What Your Freshman Needs

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