Have These Five Important Talks With Your Teen Before They Go To College

Part of being a parent is getting your kids ready for the future and giving them the skills they need to grow up and be responsible. This is very important right before your kids leave for college. But if you’re like most parents, you might wonder if they’re really ready for everything college life has to offer. Here are the top five things you should talk about with your child before they leave for college.


Your child is taking a big step when they leave for college. They’ll have a lot more freedom, but also a lot more responsibility. So, it’s important to let them know what you expect from them in college and how they should act.

Even though these will be very different for each student, parents usually want their kids to go to all of their classes, keep good grades, and get to know their teachers. Talk to your child about how important it is to ask for help when they need it, eat well, exercise, get a good night’s sleep, and even do their own laundry. Share how often you’d like to talk or FaceTime if you have an idea. It’s important to have these talks so that everyone is on the same page.

Money and Budgeting

There’s no doubt that college costs a lot of money. Aside from the costs of tuition, room and board, food, transportation, books, supplies, and entertainment must also be paid for. And if your child doesn’t have much or any experience with budgeting and saving, they might have to learn quickly how to stretch a dollar.

You should try to help them make a budget and stick to it before school starts. So, they know how much they can spend on extras each week, like coffee at the student union or tacos on Tuesdays.

Your student won’t get into financial trouble if they set up a budget and stick to it from the start. Too often, students spend their money fast and then have trouble making ends meet for the rest of the year. Help your student make a plan before they leave for school to keep them from having these kinds of money problems.

Responsible Choices

When your child goes to college, they’ll be able to do whatever they want, so it’s important to talk to them about making smart decisions. This means talking about everything from not walking alone at night and using public transportation safely to avoiding binge drinking and having safe sex.

You’ve probably already talked to your child about alcohol, drugs, and peer pressure, but when they go to college and don’t have supervision or guidance, these problems can get worse. Make sure your child knows the risks of binge drinking, how to stay safe at parties by not leaving their drink unattended or accepting drinks from other people, and how important safe sex practices and consent are.

Also, talk to your child about how to find a good balance between school and friends. Even though both are important to their overall health, they can quickly get out of balance if they put their social life ahead of their studies. Help them come up with ideas, like using time management tools or keeping a detailed calendar, for how to keep both in check.

Brain health

Leaving home for the first time can cause some mental health problems. If a first-year college student has trouble making friends or fitting in, they may feel lonely, have low self-esteem, anxiety, or even depression.

Make sure your child knows that they shouldn’t ignore these feelings and that they know how to use the mental health resources at their college. You can also talk to each other once a week about their mental health. So, you can talk to them often about how they’re feeling and how they’re adjusting to the change.

People who are having trouble often miss signs of anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts because they feel ashamed and are afraid to talk about how they feel. Help remove the stigma around mental health by having these talks with your child.

Release forms for health care

Whether you use the college’s health plan or your own, make sure your future college student knows how to manage and use their health benefits. You might also ask them if they would be willing to sign a HIPAA release form and a medical power of attorney. These documents, which you can print for free from different online sites, give you access to your child’s medical records and let you help take care of them in an emergency.

Nothing is scarier for a parent than finding out that their child is in the emergency room, especially when the doctors don’t know what’s wrong with them or how to treat them. For an 18-year-old to handle something like this on their own can be a lot. Because of this, you should teach your child what these forms let them do so they can make a good choice. If your child doesn’t want to sign the forms, you should respect that.

Other Advice

Try to spread out these talks over a few weeks. Look for times to talk when you’re both at ease, like over dinner, a walk, or even in the car.

Also, it’s best not to give your child a speech. Instead, think that they might be thinking about these things already. Start with a question instead of telling them what you think. Ask questions like, “What do you think a reasonable weekly budget at school should be?” or “How do you feel about taking the bus at night?”

Lastly, try not to take it personally if your soon-to-be college student rolls their eyes or seems annoyed by the conversation. This is a pretty typical answer. But don’t worry, these conversations won’t waste your time or breath.

In fact, a recent survey called Teens, Health, and Technology found that parents are the most important source of information for college students, with 55 percent of teens getting health information from their parents before turning to the internet. So, even if they don’t act like it, they probably want to hear what you have to say.

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