College calls….some tips for first time college parents

With students getting ready to go to school, parents are in that time of nervousness and letting go.  Most kids are ill-prepared for the life that college presents, so here are some pieces of wisdom parents should remember.

Remind them…Party all you want AFTER the work is done.  It’s a simple reality:  new college students, devoid of rules and regulations of home, go wild.  In most cases, this leads to freshman burnout and, on occasion, flunkout.  Get the work done first, then focus in being stupid.

They WILL do one really DUMB thing in college everyone will remember.  No matter how much your kid says “I’m too smart for that,” the fact is the brain doesn’t fully mature until the mid-20s so, unless little Jimmy is way more advanced that others, chances are good he will dance with a lampshade on his head, at the least.  Consider it a lesson in humility.

Forget abstinence; focus instead on not getting hurt or sick and keeping your self respect.  College is one of the most sexually charges environments out there.  It is the rare student who enters and graduates still a virgin.  Pressure is everywhere.  Rather than preaching abstinence and laboring under the illusion little Billy or Mary will not do what humans do, focus instead on considering forgiving them (and yourself) for their perceived loss of innocence.  Hate to say it, but sexual guilt is a serious source of promiscuity.  Empowerment equals abstinence and smart choices.  Trust them to make the right choice…forgive and support recovery when they err.

Don’t meddle.  Easier said than done.  Don’t call your kid three times a week because you are scared (or lonely).  Let them focus on their life and being who they are.  And celebrate…college life means you are able to have some real “you” time.

Remind them the real world is calling.  Paramore’s song “ain’t it fun” is on the money…ain’t no crying to your mama.  Let your kids know they are now responsible.  The WORST thing any parent can do is give bail money.  The fear of being stuck in jail with no bailout usually keeps kids from doing the dumbest things.

Burn that credit card.  Seriously, giving your child a credit card subsidized by you is like giving a terrorist a nuclear weapon and saying “play nice.”  Combine compromised impulse control with purchasing power and you have a recipe for disaster.  Better idea…help them get a credit card by driving them to the bank and having them fill out their own form.

Get over the fear of drugs and alcohol. A kid who hasn’t experimented with drugs and alcohol as a teenager is unlikely to do so in college.  Pot smokers usually start at a young age.  Heroin and cocaine abusers usually started with alcohol and glue sniffing as kids and nobody wanted to step in.  Trust your kids but explain the dumb things you did and the consequences.  Nothing takes the “cool” out of something faster than knowing mom and dad did the same thing.

And best piece of advice for parents of college newbies.

Laugh off the “I know better than you did” attitude.  Yes we want to slap that off our kids brains, but all college newbies think they know more.  It’s freshman hubris and after that first heartbreak, first bombed test or first nude selfie, the luster wears off fast.  Forgive, forget and love your kids.  Remember, it really isn’t like the “old days.”  That alone should help provide perspective for you.  Remember, college isn’t for everyone.  Don’t be ashamed if it doesn’t work out.  Move forward,.and get them launched.

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