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Empty Nest Prep: 5 Things to Discuss Before Your Kids Go Away to College

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If you’re a parent whose “baby” is starting college this fall, you’re probably feeling several different emotions all at once! It doesn’t matter whether your son or daughter is moving several hours away to experience dorm life, or he or she will be attending community college in town to cut costs—things will be different from here on out.

Since the fall semester is approaching faster than you’d like it to, be sure to spend some time together before classes begin. Here are five important things to discuss with your college-bound teen:

1. “Different” does not necessarily mean “bad.”

Remind your son or daughter that even though they’ve memorized their new school fight song, taken three campus tours, met their new roommate, and declared a major and a minor, they aren’t completely sure what they’re up against until things begin “for real.” Just as middle school was a lot different than elementary school, college and high school are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Many students feel overwhelmed, stressed out, and homesick once they get into the swing of things. Those feelings are completely normal, and they generally subside over time. Just because something is different doesn’t mean it’s bad.

2. Money doesn’t grow on trees. Use it wisely.

Tuition is expensive. So is room and board. Oh, and let’s not forget textbooks! A college education is one of the biggest investments a young person can make, so remind your college kid to keep tabs on their spending money to ensure it lasts. Ordering pizza and going out for lattes on a regular basis is not a wise idea if you’re already paying for a mandatory meal plan.

3. That horrible crisis probably won’t seem so bad in a month or two.

Bad stuff happens. It’s a fact of life. But fortunately, time marches on and a lot of those horrible things will seem a little brighter as time goes by. Breakups, bad grades, and not getting into that class you wanted will seem a little less painful sooner than you think.

4. It’s okay to say no.

Going to class, joining clubs, going out with friends … college can be a whirlwind of activity, especially if you add a part-time job to the mix. Remind your college student that keeping busy can help ease the transition of high school to college, but it can also be a bit overwhelming. Unless something is required for a class, it’s probably okay to skip it. (And it’s always okay to say no if someone is attempting to pressure you into something that you don’t want to do, like drinking or drugs or sexual activity.)

5. Ask for help when you need it.

Most college freshmen are excited about their newfound independence, even those who will be living at home. Unfortunately, many feel too embarrassed to raise their hands in class or drop by a professor’s office for assistance when something is confusing them. Ignoring the fact that you need help doesn’t make you an adult—if anything, it makes you less of one. There’s no such thing as a dumb question.

Your son might roll his eyes when you attempt to offer last-minute advice. Your daughter might remind you that she already knows everything you just told her. Even so, make a real effort to have meaningful conversations before they go off to college. The things you say will stick with them!

Related Posts:

Advice for Parents: 10 Ways to Help Your Kids Prepare for College


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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