Preparing for the Great Day!!
You were filled with so much pride. Your heart swelled with joy when you saw your teen go up to receive her certificate. Graduation from high school, at last. You start thinking of all the preparation that has to be made before your teen goes off to the college of her dreams. You are filled with anticipation and some anxiety at the thought of them finally going off to college. But there is the long summer before the great day arrives, and it can be one of the most turbulent periods in any family’s life.
Emotions run high. Your teens are proud of what they’ve achieved and want to wind down and relax and spend as much time with their friends as possible before they go off to college. You on the other hand have other plans. You want to hold them close and advise and prepare them even as they get ready to leave your protective fold. This leads to a lot of confrontation, and misunderstanding which if not managed well can create ongoing problems in the relationship. How can one best navigate this season of great change?
1. Be empathetic
Realize that your teens are going through a lot of emotions, some of which they don’t understand themselves. I remember when my twins were first going off to college, and we seemed to butt heads all the time. They argued with each other and with us, their parents. I couldn’t understand until I attended orientation and we were informed that the teens themselves are nervous and insecure about leaving home, and that is how they deal with it. They pull away from you a little. They try to show you they are independent. Perhaps they are convincing themselves that they will make it on their own. Be patient during this period. They don’t love you any less. Reassure them that they will be alright without being overly protective. Give them their space but be always ready during the rare instances when they do come and talk to you. Try to avoid the endless arguments. They serve no purpose and can cause a big crack in your relationship at the very time that you need them to trust you the most.
2. Don’t go Overboard
Remember your teens are off to college and not starting a new life in space or going on a fashion show. Don’t go overboard and buy new clothes and new shoes etc. The irony of it is these new items will probably not fit them in the next few months. Unfortunately “freshman fifteen” can be very real for some teens and they literally outgrow all these new clothes in just a few months. It’s actually better to buy what they need only and let them settle into their new weights, whether up or down before buying them new items. Also remember some of them are still not very good at doing laundry by themselves and they may damage all the new stuff you buy them. Let them grow up a bit and once they are well versed in the ways of college, they’ll have a better idea of what they need then.
3. Be wise about dorm room décor
I found out that what your teen’s room is going to look like is really dependent on who your kid is. My twin boys could not be bothered about all the niceties of the dorm room. It was all very practical and clinical. We got what they needed and we were all happy. I did force a few items down their throats that I thought would make their rooms homely and welcoming. These were politely returned to me with “Mom, I don’t really need these.” Okay then. My daughter on the other hand, wanted her room to look nice. She wanted to be happy and have as many mementos as possible so she would not miss home too much. The point is know who your child is and be accommodating, to some extent at least. I’m not saying break the bank but try and make them happy. There are so many inexpensive little items that can be purchased to give a homey environment for those who want it and for those who don’t just get them the necessities.
4. Discuss hygiene
This may sound so basic, but for some people, it really isn’t. Help your teens realize that they are sharing space with other people, and they need to be considerate about keeping common areas clean. Some teens don’t realize that there are no maids in school and they leave dirty bowls and pans for others to clean. Dirty laundry accumulates and quickly takes up space in otherwise crowded quarters anyway. This has caused many problems between roommates and destroyed several friendships. And of course there is personal hygiene. Deodorant is a must for most of us and tooth brushes are a necessity. They must realize that they actually have to use them to make others comfortable around them and also to protect their own teeth. Visiting the dentist isn’t a favorite thing to do for most people.
5. Get on board with Immunization.
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to make sure your teens are fully immunized before they leave for college. Hopefully, you’ve kept up with all the childhood immunizations but in addition you must make sure they’ve been immunized against meningitis, and that they receive the flu vaccine when flu season arrives. The Tdap vaccine which protects them from tetanus and pertussis or whooping cough as we call it, must be up to date. Because teens live in such close quarters with each other contagious diseases can spread like wildfire so it behooves all parents to make sure their teens are protected. Another important vaccine which parents are a little reluctant to give is the HPV vaccine. This protects your child from the human papilloma virus, which has been shown to cause cervical and anal cancers and genital warts. Your teens are trusting you to do what is best for them. Protect them.
Yes, preparing your teen for college can be enjoyable and arduous all at the same time. Tensions can ran high as your teens try to exert their independence, so be patient and empathetic. Be wise in how much you spend buying new items that perhaps your teens may not need or even want. Enjoy the process though and help them decorate if they want to. This is going to be their home for the next four years. Help them learn to love it. And of course immunize them to make sure they are well protected against diseases some of which can have life altering consequences.