I can so clearly remember every detail of Aug. 19, 2011 – the day we took our son to college. The day and night before we finished up all the errands and had him all packed and loaded in the vehicles. We had a great family dinner with all his favorite foods, we told funny stories and shared memories. We talked about what we loved about him and what made him special to us. Finally we prayed over him.
But when I went to bed, I tossed and turned, thoughts racing through my head. Did I tell him this or that? Did I teach him how to do that? Did I really prepare him for this or that? Then it dawned on me. I was afraid that either I had not done enough to prepare him for life or else I had not done enough to prepare myself for this day, or both.
Finally, I got out of bed at 3 a.m. and started composing a letter to him. I found myself praying and asking for the thoughts and words to flow. That letter turned out to be five, single spaced pages with 21 points! My son told me has kept that letter and still reads it from time to time. So here goes with the lessons, suggestions and/or advice.
Preparing your son and daughter
Many college kids and their parents become so focused on the logistical aspects of starting college that they neglect to discuss some of the more important and serious issues that impact college kids nor do they spend time creating meaningful family memories. So it’s critical to have open conversations (and not all of them at one time) with your kids about several topics:
Your values and their values. What do those values look like? What are the behaviors that communicate those values?
- Safety issues with topics ranging from alcohol and/or drug use, tobacco use, sexual behavior/safe sex, date rape, physical safety, etc.
- How to keep themselves healthy including what symptoms and changes should they be aware of and what to do or where to go if they need to seek medical attention, how to eat healthy, how to manage stress, how to focus on their mental health – monitoring for anxiety and/or depression.
- Time management and course management – how to manage a checking account, credit card and how to protect them from fraud.
- Teach skills such as how to do laundry, car maintenance, grocery shop, basic cooking skills.
- Locate resources for them such as Office of Disabilities (if warranted), student health center or physicians, pharmacy, bank, auto repair business, tutoring services, counseling services, church, etc.
- Discuss expectations such as frequency of communication, how to get in touch if there is an emergency etc.
Equally important is to convey confidence in them, that they are ready for this next stage, although it is a learning process for them, it is for you too. Kids need to know that their parents will be OK. So ask your son or daughter where you are as a parent can do to make them feel better about preparing for college. Make memories and share meaningful family times together.
Now for the logistics
Make sure your children have everything they think they need, as well as all the things they don’t think they need! Of course there is the usual such as electronics – computers/tablets; school supplies including a stapler, scissors, hole punch, etc.; linens (especially extra-long sheets); clothes; laundry products; etc. One thing we discovered was the need for additional storage, good lighting and a better, more comfortable desk chair.
It is also wise to get a flashlight, extra batteries, one to two umbrellas, extension cords/power strips, Ethernet cables, food storage containers as well as a drinking cups/utensils etc. I also strongly urge you supply your children with their own medical insurance cards; health kids including band aides, headache relief, cold and allergy medicines, cough medicines, etc.; little sewing kits with safety pins; and etchers to etch their names on personal properties. Also be sure to record all their valuables with serial numbers and keep a copy of that in their dorm/apartment and one at home.
On the day of the move-in, it is best to arrive early. We were able to move our sons in the day before the scheduled move-in day by simply paying a small extra fee. It was well worth it! Arrive as early as possible and get their stuff unloaded and into their dorm room as early as possible.
Help your kids unpack as much as they want you to do. Be sure to bring a dolly if you have one – very helpful as well as some cleaning supplies. Also, it is a great idea to bring some snacks and drinks since it is often very hot that time of year. The benefit of unpacking early is that you can identify things you might have forgotten as well as run other errands such as setting up a checking account. Follow your kids’ lead and you assist where they want you to assist. Oh and bring Kleenex®!
Wow was that hard. My son’s dorm roommate was one of his dearest friends from high school. Our son’s siblings and we parents moved the boys in at the same time. As we got ready to leave we all circled around our two boys and prayed over them. It was very touching. It was emotional in that tears were shed, but were not hysterical – at least not in front of them. But the ride home was very hard.
Lisa Elliott is a licensed psychologist and clinic manager of Cook Children’s Behavioral Health, located at 3201 Teasley Lane, Ste. 202, Denton, TX 76210. To make an appointment, call the Cook Children’s Intake Department at 682-885-3917. Cook Children’s Psychology provides care focused on children’s behavior, from ages 3 years through 17.