Teens, parties, college life and being prepared.
(Preparing for the great day! Part 2)
As summer progresses and we fill our days with fun activities, we are still preparing for that day, when you say bye to your teen and they begin a new chapter in college. There is still a lot to be done. Parents go through a lot of anxiety, especially if this is the first child going off to college or if the parents are going to become empty nesters. Parents worry about drugs, alcohol, relationships, funding for college. Below are a few suggestions for tackling these problems.
Hopefully your child got some funding for college but if not, it’s not over yet. Money or the lack thereof should never be a reason why a teen is denied college. Experts say millions of dollars in scholarships go unclaimed each year. Looking for scholarships involves hard work and most students are not prepared to do this so if your child is disciplined and consistently applies the chance of winning good money is high. Some resources to help with the scholarship application are the scholarship App, “Scholly ” founded by Christopher Gray and scholarshipworkshop.com founded by Marianne Ragins. Both of them won hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships and teach others who are willing to do the work to apply for and win scholarships. Other resources are your own high school and the college you are attending. Several big companies like Pepsi and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have scholarships you can apply for and several small companies in your community and church offer scholarships too. You just have to encourage your teen to start searching and applying if they haven’t done so already.
2. Teach goal setting
Now is the time to really teach your teens about goal setting. Talk to your teens about what they hope to accomplish in college. Having this talk will really influence how they choose to spend their time in college. Discuss their aspirations five or ten years from now. What kind of life do they envision for themselves? Hopefully the aim is not for them to go to college and return to live in your home. Help them set goals and then work backwards to decide what courses in college will help them achieve those goals. What internships should they focus on? What relationships should they be making in college? College isn’t just about going to school and making good grades. It’s about the hands you shake on the way, and the impact you make with the people you meet. They must be taught to volunteer and give back as well. They need to challenge themselves and make the college experience both memorable and beneficial.
3. Communication! Communication! Communication!
I can’t emphasize enough how important communication is. Your teens are beginning a new life with new relationships, stressors and challenges. Our tendency as parents is calling and badgering them about what is going on. We want to just jump in and help. Sometimes, communication is just reassuring your teen that you are available and have an open door policy. Sometimes, you just need to listen and ask the right questions and let them figure it out. Decide upfront the method of communication. I have several parents who have said “They better call me, I’m paying the school fees etc.” Unfortunately it doesn’t always work that way. Learn your child’s method of communication. My sons didn’t like talking on the phone so we did a lot of texting. My daughter got the Snapchat app for me so I got to see her and meet her friends on Snapchat. Our phone calls when they happened were few and precious but we both really enjoyed them. Learn what works for your teen and be flexible and go with it.
4. Tackling Drugs and Alcohol.
Oh, those ugly words. Unfortunately some teens decide to experiment with drugs and alcohol in college, and the college is under no obligation to report them to you. Here again, communication plays a part. Your teens must feel that you won’t judge them if they talk to you. If they feel that you’ll berate and shout at them then they will not let you know what is going on. If they become very secretive, and spend a lot of money that they can’t account for, or the crowd they hang out with changes, you have to start asking questions. It helps if they have other adults they are comfortable with to talk to. It may be a trusted aunt, uncle or family friend. If your teen admits to drug use and asks for help, that is a very positive sign. Get them the help they need without nagging them. I have a friend who did some emotional blackmail and even cried when she found out her son was doing drugs, and the pain he felt he had inflicted caused him to stop. The most important thing is preparation. The conversation should have started way before college. If you haven’t done so, start now. Let them know your views. Kids who have set goals and have a plan for their lives are less likely to use drugs. Teach them to set goals.
5. The big “S” Word.
Yes, Sex is a reality on college campuses. Talk to your teens about why you think abstinence is best but encourage your teen to be honest with you. If your teen is sexually active, find out why. Some teens just have intercourse because everyone else is doing so. Other’s get pressured into it because they believe they are in love and will lose their partner if they don’t give in. Still others are sexually active from low self-esteem and a desire to be accepted. Explain to them that anyone who ever forces them to have sex does not really love them. I’ve had parents put their teens on birth control before college, saying that prevention is key. Some have argued that this sends a wrong message to the teen. I think every family has to decide this for themselves. But don’t let your teens think that this is what you expect from them. I’ve had lots of teens decide to wait. Keep the channels of communication open. This should be an ongoing discussion. Help protect your teens by talking to them about date rape. Talk to your young men about respecting the women they are involved in and treating them responsibly. Don’t pretend sex does not exist. It does. Take responsibility and talk to your teen.
As you prepare your teens for college, help them to look at the big picture. About the life they hope to make for themselves once college is over. Encourage them to give back and to realize “it’s not really only about the grades you make, but also the hands you shake.” Teach them to set goals for themselves and challenge themselves once those goals have been attained. Be honest and talk about the murky aspect of college like the drugs, alcohol and the misuse of sex and teach them how to be responsible and protect themselves. Hopefully college for our teens will be a stepping stone to a bigger and brighter future and not just a detour on the way back home, and to continued dependence on you.