After years of hard work, students around the country are about to embark on the next step of their lives. For many, it’s the first time they will live on their own and be responsible for their own education, not to mention health and well-being. Mom and Dad might be miles away or as close as home, depending on where students are going to school. Be them near of far, students will be more likely to succeed academically, socially and emotionally if parents talk to them openly and honestly about the issues they will face in this new chapter of their lives:
College is a great opportunity.
For some families, college is an expectation. For other families, especially first-generation students, college is something new. No matter a family’s history with continuing education past high school, college offers a great opportunity, not only to prepare students for their career, but also to experience new things that will effect them for the rest of their life. From a broader range of educational subjects to events, guest speakers and social activities, college offers a wide array of opportunities for students to learn more about themselves, the world and their place in it. Wasting college playing video games, getting drunk or skipping class are just three ways for students to not only not succeed in college, but squander the chance to embrace all that it has to offer.
Help them see graduation as a goal.
While it may be tempting to live forever in the world that college offers, it’s important to keep the finish line in sight. When a student is 18, they may not easily envision life years down the line. Keeping graduation as a motivation will not only helps students focus on their course work, but sparks their minds to consider what they want to achieve or “get” from college.
Share your expectations.
For many families, parents will help shoulder the cost of sending a student to college. So it’s best to talk about what expectations parents have for their students before starting school. Rather than dictate the terms of what students will do with this educational investment, have a two-way conversation. Where do the expectations of a student and parent intersect or diverge from each other? Often, having an open talk about what’s expected from college will not only help when a student is in school, but might open their thinking, recognizing the effort their parents are putting into their education.
Talk about the social and emotional issues that students will face.
Unfortunately, many statistics show the impact of drinking, sexual misconduct, mental health issues and other non-classroom factors on a student’s ability to succeed in college, as some students either abuse the freedom that college brings or find it difficult to deal with the pressure of college expectations. It might be hard for parents to talk about such things as sexual misconduct with their child, but having a student realize the importance of doing the right thing, being a real friend in need, and the emotional, physical and legal consequences of bad behavior will go a long way to helping them understand the potential impact. As well, helping students understand the warning signs of mental health problems, including any family histories, will help them better cope with how the emotional pressures that come with college make them feel. In all cases, the most important thing a parent can remind their student is that there is always someone to talk to and services available on campus. Asking for help or support is not a sign of weakness or failure.
Remind them to take care of themselves.
Even more than important than emotional or social well-being, students need to remember to take care of their personal health. From eating well and exercising to the basics of getting a good night’s sleep, parents talking to their students about their health is not only a reminder that a healthy mind comes with a healthy body, but also let’s students know that even when they feel alone, there is always someone looking out for them. That’s something that will stick to students not only as they head off to school, but for years to come.