Sending a child away to college is one of the most exciting—and nerve-racking—times in families’ lives. Will they succeed academically? Will they get along with their roommate? Will they be able to live on their own? These are just some of the questions each parent faces as their child enters adulthood. Dr. Sherrie Campbell, a veteran psychologist based in southern California and author of Loving Yourself : The Mastery of Being Your Own Person, says the best way to transition your teen into the next chapter is to instill them with confidence and discipline. LN recently spoke with Campbell, whose specialties include psychotherapy with adults and teenagers, more about how parents can prepare their kids for the privileges and challenges of college life.
How can parents help their teens transition into college?
Parents should start preparing their kids for college as early as age 10. Talk about how they’re going to go to college and what they are going to be. As they apply for college, continue to talk to them about growing and being themselves, but remind them that home is still available, if they need it.
What essential information should parents give their kids?
Remind them of experiences dealing with new people. And remind them to focus on grades—and not partying. The more you talk about this with your kids and stay involved, the better.
How do parents help teens develop self-confidence before college?
When you’re getting out on your own, you need to be able to take care of yourself. Remind them of the importance of chores—make sure they know how to manage a schedule, do their own laundry and clean up after themselves. Teach them to be conscious of the people around them, and prepare them for the party scene by letting them know there are consequences to their actions.
Why is discipline important for kids going away to school?
You should support them to grow and be independent, but to be responsible, as well. If you do that in the home, they are more likely to do it away from home. Set rules and a curfew because there will be dorm rules. And if a lot of those rules are broken, maybe they lose their car. There have to be consequences because while in college they are still dependent on you financially. You also should have grade expectations if you are supporting their college career. It is incredibly important to set up those ideas because they have to be reaching for something while they’re there. And maybe don’t make them work their first semester, but the second semester they could get a part-time job. Make them responsible for a certain amount of their play-time money.
How can parents best model the behaviors they would like to see in their teens?
Parents have to walk what they talk. If they can be disciplined, go to work and be responsible for carrying on a schedule, then their children are more likely to do that themselves.
Should teens have a mentor in college?
Encourage your teens to get involved in groups, whether it is a sorority or a missions group, because they may not like their roommates. Getting involved in a group or hooking up with a mentor will help them along the journey.
What reminders should parents send away with their kids?
Let them know that they’re loved and supported. Send them off with all the confidence and love. Kids need to know that they can call home and connect back to home—because they’re still kids. And be involved in their college careers: Go to parents’ day, football games, sorority events, etc. Don’t lose contact with them.