Preparing Children to Make Wise Choices in College

By Karen Wrolson
Your child is leaving for college and you can’t quite wrap your head around it.
For years you have planned for this moment, yet you find yourself struggling with the transition. Their room is filled with boxes; old stuffed animals and posters are being discarded, and their time with you seems to be dwindling away.
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This moment is an important one in your child’s life. They are going away and will be living as an independent adult. It is also an important time in your life. This is your last chance to impart parental wisdom while they are living with you.
And, for some odd reason, they will actually listen to you because the seriousness of the change will be hitting them as well.
What things would you like to share with them at this juncture?
Here are some suggestions:
Safety issues: These young adults will be faced with choices that could affect the rest of their lives.
Drink alcohol? Be physically intimate? Go to parties where drugs are? Go out with people you have just met to homes you have never been to?
Talk to them about how these choices could affect the rest of their lives and share examples from your life or others. I suggest you do some role-playing to allow them to practice saying no.
Responsibility: More choices— should I skip class today? Would a job be a good thing? How much work and time should I devote to my studies? What classes should I sign up for? Do I have time to get involved in some clubs? What should I spend my money on?
Help them understand that their primary job is school and that they should put their maximum effort into that. Teach them how to create a schedule that involves prioritizing school and study before all other activities. Help them create a budget. Warn them about all the “free” credit card offers they will be bombarded with.
college-foodHealth: They now will be deciding what to eat for every meal—no more meals prepared by mom or dad. They will also be determining their own sleep and exercise schedule.
Help them avoid putting on those extra pounds by advising them to eat wisely, have a regular sleep schedule and exercise.
Family: Assure them that there is no change in their status in the family. You will always be there for them and available for phone calls, Skype, texting— whichever form of communication they prefer.
Trust me on this: Communication with them is going to be sparse at first. You may begin to feel they only contact you when they need help. That’s fine—they are establishing a new life for themselves. Enjoy the moments you get with them.
Wisdom: This is the time to impart the deeper thoughts that have guided you throughout your life. What have you learned about the following that you want to share with them:

  • Purpose of life
  • Definition of success
  • Development of healthy friendships
  • Personal integrity

Again, this is a one-time moment as they cross that bridge from living under your roof to living as an adult, making daily decisions that could impact the rest of their lives. Make the most of this moment by imparting those important messages they need to hear.
Karen Wrolson of Excite Ed in Camarillo is a life coach, educator and author of “You Don’t Get Me: Understanding Challenging Teenagers.” Her website is