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Tips for Parents Sending their Children to College

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Thousands of Chicago area teens will be going off to college at this month. Parents, especially parents of freshman, want to help their children get off to a positive start. But Harlan Cohen, syndicated advice columnist (Help Me, Harlan) and author of The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College, says there are things they need to keep in mind.

The Top 5 Off-to-College Survival Tips for Parents:

GIVE YOURSELF A COLLEGE EDUCATION

An informed parent can be the best coach during this transition. Know the campus website, support services, and resources so that you can direct your student to places where he can find help.

APPLY THE 24-HOUR "HELICOPTER PARENT" RULE

Yes! Even the happiest college students cry and get upset at times. Before you hover, relax and count to 24 hours.
When you get email or cell phone calls, don't be so quick to fix the problem yourself. You can, however, teach your student to fix her own problems.

TALK ABOUT IT BEFORE IT'S A PROBLEM

Talk about sensitive and embarrassing things.
Be direct when talking about sex, drinking, drugs, calling home, and everything else that matters.
Just because your kid is leaving doesn't mean that your kid stops listening.
Teach him or her to be smart about being stupid.
Let him know you're always there for him.

CELL PHONE NUMBERS YOU MUST HAVE

Few students use their room phones. You need to have options if you can't get your student on the line.
For emergency purposes only, parents should get the cell phone numbers of their students' roommates and friends.

IT'S YOUR TRANSITION TOO

Parents sometimes feel old, out of control, and broke. They can seek support through college parent networks and appreciate how this can be an exciting time for them too.

#1 They don't "JUST TALK"
Parents MUST talk about embarrassing issues (sex, pregnancy, partying, money, etc.) but often they blow it by falling into one of two categories:

  • Chicken Little -- They avoid issues altogether.
  • Drama King or Queen -- They talk about the issues, but are too dramatic! Teens are turned off by lectures, monologues, big family productions.

    ADVICE: It's already uncomfortable; don't make it unnatural. JUST TALK. Bring it up! It's GOING to be awkward, but just be yourself!

    #2 They Don't Know the Definition of "LETTING GO"
    Yes, your child is moving away. Parents have to let go, but they blow it by having one of two mindsets:

  • "Letting Go" means NAG BY PROXY -- Instead of bugging their kids at the bedroom doorway, they call all the time! (Become HELICOPTER PARENTS)
  • "Letting Go" means OUT OF SIGHT OUT OF MIND  They think their teens will behave.

    ADVICE: Have a plan. Decide (WITH YOUR SON OR DAUGHTER) how often you'll communicate, when they'll come home, when you'll visit, etc. You can keep in touch without suffocating them.

    #3 They Don't "MOVE ON"
    Parents have to move on. But they must remember:

  • "Moving On" does not mean "I CAN STOP BEING A PARENT." They need you... don't get lazy!
  • "Moving On" does not mean "I'M USELESS." They need you... don't get depressed!

    ADVICE: Moving on means it's time to change the relationship with your son or daughter, not to cut it off. But you will have to learn to treat them like adults.

    For more information, www.helpmeharlan.com or www.thenakedroommate.com.

    Harlan's college survival guide, The Naked Roommate, is available at bookstores everywhere and online at amazon.com and bn.com.


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