Your child is really moving on to the next phase of their life. Here are 10 conversations to help create skills to make your child's transition to college a success:
1. If you haven't done it yet, teach your kids how to do the laundry. Otherwise, he or she will spend a year buying new underwear.
2. Teach them the basics of financial literacy. Show them how to budget. Sort out the difference between wants and needs.
3. Teach them how to pay their bills. Show them how to write a check, balance the checkbook and use electronic payment methods.
4. Teach them the responsible use of credit cards by setting up a credit card account. Put the lowest possible limit on it, and make them responsible for any late payment fees. (They may have to pay you back with in-kind services.)
5. Discuss who is paying for what next year. Their summer plans may depend on their financial obligations!
6. Change the curfew to a discussion of what would be an appropriate time to return home and how to contact you if they will be late. In a few months, they will be managing their own time. Better to start under your supervision than get into trouble. Remind them that you're not prying, you just want to know when to start worrying and call the police to search for them.
7. Get out of the nagging business. In college, it's up to the student to manage homework, to talk to the teacher and to keep their room. Let them know that you are available if they have questions, but that you will no longer be responsible.
8. Begin sorting out a communication system. How often and by what methods (phone, text, email) will you talk? Keep in mind: just like you had no idea what you would need before you had your first child, both you and your child may have no idea what their needs will be when they are at college. Remember, their needs will change frequently depending on workload and social life, as will yours.
9. According to the Family Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, at age 18 your kids have a right to their own educational records. On the other hand, you are contributing something to their education. Talk to your child about what would be a comfortable way for you to know about how they are doing academically without micromanaging their life.
10. Similarly, 18-year-olds' health records are also private. This is a great opportunity to start talking about one another's medical history, preferences and needs. In case of emergencies, make sure you and your child have a plan and perhaps permission to see each others' medical records.
Times are a-changin' in your family's life, and change takes time. So begin now, adapting your relationship from one of a dependent child and an independent adult to one of two interdependent adults. Finding the right combination of nurturing and autonomy for each child and parent over life's course is not easy. You'll keep working it out over the next 30 years or more, but the time to begin is now.
For more information about parenting and the author, visit ruthnemzoff.com