Transitioning from high school to college is almost never a cakewalk. Regardless of where your child goes to school, they are going to face several new experiences and almost certainly more than a few challenges. While all of this is completely normal, you want to do your best to prepare your child for the changes ahead.
Depending on the relationship the two of you have developed, you may well be helping them pick out their classes and moving them in when the big day arrives. Doubtless, by now you’ve done your best to impress upon them the importance of furthering their education and avoiding various stumbling blocks.
For many students, college represents the perfect time to form new relationships and have fun. But it’s also the time to figure out what the rest of life might look like. As a parent, it’s your job to have a few tough conversations to make sure your child is prepared for this next chapter. Listed below are five conversations you’ll want to have with your soon-to-be college student.
1. Have (another) frank conversation about sexuality
Remember when your teen was going through puberty? You probably sat down and discussed exactly what was going on with their body, right? For many, the onset of college life represents yet another threshold in human sexuality and it’s time to have “the talk” one more time. You may or may not be available for face-to-face conversations for quite some time after they leave.
Your soon-to-be college student absolutely will be exposed to many different lifestyles. One example of that is so-called hook-up culture. It’s therefore imperative that you have another transparent conversation with them about sex before seeing them off. College students must be aware of the prevalence of sexually transmitted infections and the various birth control methods that can help keep them safe.
When the topic turns to birth control, make sure your student knows how to access the available options. Remember, you’re not going with them to college. You won’t be picking up their birth control pills for them.
Nowadays, various forms of birth control can be delivered directly to their mailbox. For example, Nurx offers fast birth control delivery with free shipping. From the pill to the patch, ring, or shot, students no longer need to worry about picking up their preferred method of birth control. Their sexual health needs can be shipped to them in discreet packaging. Click here to learn more.
2. Be 100% clear about what is meant by “consent”
According to research, approximately one in five women are sexually assaulted while attending college. In light of this harsh reality, it’s critical you educate your soon-to-be college student as to what constitutes consent on campus. Stress the importance of giving or receiving it prior to engaging in any form of sexual activity.
Encourage your teenager to speak up when they’re uncomfortable and report behavior that runs contrary to consent. College can be a wonderful experience, but there’s no denying that misconduct happens. The best way to protect your student is by arming them with information. Make sure they know they can always come to you with questions or if they need advice.
3. Stress the fact that college is a privilege, not a right
These days, it might seem like everyone goes to college. The truth is, they don’t. According to research, over half of eligible students can’t afford college. It’s important your teen understands that furthering their education is a privilege. It’s not something they should take for granted.
Some college students make the mistake of viewing their four years at college as a free pass to party. Before sending your child off to school, have a conversation with them about what going to college really means. Sure, it can be a lot of fun, but your teen needs to take it seriously as well. They need to attend classes, maintain an agreed-upon GPA, and make plans for the future.
When discussing grades, performance should be balanced by grace. Make sure they know they can fail occasionally and change their mind. If one semester they want to be an English major and the next a psychology major, evaluate earned credit hours together graciously. Your student doesn’t need to have everything figured out the first day they arrive on campus. Most don’t.
4. Get on the same page with regard to expectations
Of course, you want your student to succeed while in school. To ensure that happens, it’s vitally important to set expectations and agree in advance about possible consequences. Chances are, you’re paying or contributing to your child’s education. That gives you a voice in the outcome.
Even if you’re not paying tuition, you’re most likely helping in other ways. Whether that’s buying books, paying insurance on their vehicle, or sending money for gas, you’re investing in their success. Don’t be afraid to set expectations. For example, let’s say that your student fails an important class
If one of your agreed-upon expectations is for them to maintain good grades, you might reduce their spending money for a semester. Make sure you clearly state your expectations as well as what will happen if they don’t meet them. You want to make sure there’s no confusion in the future.
5. Highlight the availability of mental health resources on campus
Mental health issues are a serious problem among college students. According to many experts, we’re experiencing an epidemic in the number of American college students struggling with mental health challenges. The most common college-age issues are depression, anxiety, suicide, addiction, and eating disorders.
Talking about mental health with your teen might be uncomfortable, but it’s a conversation you desperately need to have. Make sure your child knows what common issues look like. Unfortunately, far too many students think they’re alone when it comes to their mental health.
The startling truth is that one in three freshmen experience mental health issues. Having this particular conversation with your student is important, but it’s only the first step. Pay ongoing attention to your child, even if you’re hundreds of miles away. Communicate regularly so you’ll be quick to spot any personality changes.
While symptoms for mental health issues vary, some common signs are trouble concentrating, changes in sleep patterns, inexplicable sadness, and constantly feeling overwhelmed. If your student shows signs of trouble, let them know you’ll help any way you can, up to and including getting them professional help.
Regardless of how mature your soon-to-be college student might be, it’s important you have these challenging conversations before they go to school. College brings new experiences and a sense of freedom your teen probably hasn’t had before. Remember, as a parent, it’s your responsibility to guide your children through life as best as you can. So have the conversations — especially when they’re uncomfortable.