After all the test-taking, application filling, essay editing, campus touring, and acceptance-waiting, the big event is almost here: dropping your child off at college. But is your teen really ready to handle life away from home sweet home?
If you’ve suddenly realized that your same high school grad who passed those SATs with flying colors,can’t change a light bulb or balance a checkbook, believe me you’re not alone. Many parents are dealing with those same anxiety pangs. The good news is there are still a few weeks left before those final goodbyes. Here are four steps you can use to help your college bound teen really be ready to handle life solo style. Just keep in mind that the move in date is quickly approaching so best to start this one ASAP.
Step 1. Identify “away from home” needs. Over the next days tune into your teen and determine which life skills he can and can’t do without your help. Then create a list of what your teen needs to learn like changing a tire, making a doctor’s appointment, using a microwave, paying a bill, using a fire extinguisher, writing down appointments, balancing a savings account, or doing laundry. Keep adding to that list of what life skills you think your teen needs for the environment he’ll be living in.
Step 2. Make a realistic plan. Next, look over that list and prioritize what your teen really needs to learn and what is realistic to teach in the time you have left. Get your teen involved by asking what she feels she lacks in the “handling life” department. Then use a calendar to create your teaching plan. Write a different life lesson you plan to review before your teen leaves home for each week.
Step 3. Teach skills for independence. Zero in on one area each week before those college doors open. The goal is to ensure mastery so your teen can do the task without you. First teach by going through the task together and explaining each step so that she knows what to do. Only use real life examples. For instance, if you’re teaching her to write a check, go to the bank and set up a real checking account, then require her to use that checkbook from now until school starts. Finally supervise to ensure that she can handle the job solo.
Step 4. Start backing off. Once your teen knows how to do the task alone, then back off. No more rescuing. Instead, begin to teach another skills. Your new parenting mantra to follow is: “Never do for your child what he can do for himself.” This is also the time to slowly start expanding that curfew and his responsibilities.
Of course, the real secret is not waiting until that move out day to teach these critical life lessons. So roll up your sleeves and start in. There’s a wonderful Navaho proverb that says, “We raise our kids to leave us.” Turn these next weeks in parenting to achieve that goal.
So what are you waiting for? The clock is ticking and the big count down is on.
This blog appeared this morning in The Baltimore Sun’s “Charm City Moms” blog hosted by Kate Shatzkin.