Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Preparedness Tips...For Your College Student

Apparently it is back to school time judging by the mob at our local Walmart and the number of parents who are stressing about driving their kids half way across the country to settle them into their new college dorm rooms. A lady I met today at a conference was wondering where she would be able to buy her son a refrigerator for his dorm room at his new college because she just couldn't stuff another item into the family's mini van when they head off in a couple of days to drive him three states over to his new college. Fortunately we have passed that kid milestone but for parents who are about to launch their newly minted adults into college life, here's some preparedness tips:
  • Check out the best cell phone plans in your student's new college town. Your current cell company may have no or limited reception in the new town so you want to make sure the phone they carry with them 24/7 will actually work.
  • Give them a homework assignment before school starts. Of course you could look up the phone numbers for the RA (Resident Advisor) and campus security, find out how to receive email alerts from the college, and research the university's campus safety plan but you are done with college so make the kid do a bit of work. Even though they don't think they would ever need this info, by doing the research and providing YOU with all of the safety and security information there is to be obtained about their new school, they will at least have a passing knowledge of these items which they find may be useful in the future.
  • Minimize stuff. This has been learned from decades of travel--the less stuff you bring, the less stuff can get lost or stolen. You don't know what will be in style in your new location so wait and shop where the locals shop and wear what the locals wear. They do have everything you could ever need in your new college town, just like people in Kenya brush their teeth so you will be able to find toothpaste in Kenya, people in a college towns eat Ramen so you don't need to bring a year's supply with you.
  • Give them the safety talk. Our kids got the safety talk at the beginning of each new school year starting when they were in kindergarten and ending...well it hasn't ended yet but I think they have perfected tuning out the parents a few years back. Each talk was age appropriate and included elementary school things such as how to cross the street and not to talk to strangers, moved on through middle school with peer pressure, teen suicide, and alcohol/drug use risks, went through high school with warnings about drinking and driving and teen pregnancy precautions, and finished up with college specific concerns such as date rape, depression, campus security, dorm security, and the whole binge drinking/partying/hazing/psycho stalker lecture. Even if your kids roll their eyes and yawn as you run through every possible scenario they may encounter, it makes a parent feel better just to know the information is out there and it may have possibly sunk in.
  • Discuss expectations: how often they will check in (my parents were lucky if they heard from me once a month during college but that was way before kids were joined at the keypad with their parents), what their grades need to be if they want to keep the parental cash-flow coming, and what an emergency money situation would entail (this could be everything from a lump sum each quarter and they need to figure their way out of any emergency that comes up, a credit card that the parents pay monthly hopefully with a spending limit, or a permanent link to a bank account that is regularly replenished by the parents). The bottom line is to set clear rules before any situation comes up that makes you, as a parent, stressed or broke.
  • Don't forget your emergency preparedness stuff. Everyone in the family, including kids away at college, need to know the family emergency contact person/phone number/email address and to know where the family meeting locations are at. Kids need to know what natural and man made hazards they may face at their new school. Your kid may have spent their whole life in southern California where earthquakes and wildfires were the main hazards and not know anything about the hurricanes and tornadoes that their new southern Florida locale is known for. Keeping food, water, an extra blanket, a radio, a flashlight, and other necessary emergency supplies in their dorm room is just as important as it is at home--you never know when your facility will go into lock down and you may be stranded in your room for a period of time.
  • Don't forget the basics: Vaccinations, check. Marking your valuables in case you need to identify them if they are stolen, check. Not leaving any valuables out where they could be swiped, check. Not advertising to the whole student body that daddy just sent you a wad of cash thus making you a target for robbery, check.
Hopefully after the first 18 years of life spent with you, your kids will be ready to tackle the world. It is often scarier for parent to let their kids go--you don't know if you taught them everything they need to know and now that they are hundreds or thousands of miles away you wonder how you will help them if they need it--well you could stress yourself out all day worrying about the possibilities. But with a little preparedness, and a bit of luck, your kids will survive the transition even better than you!

1 comment:

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