Your teen going off to college is always a bittersweet moment.
On one hand, your baby is flying the nest and taking their first steps into independent adult life – but on the other, you know by them doing so that you’ve done your job right as a parent.
One of the most difficult things about letting your teen off into the big wide world is knowing if they have the right skills and knowledge to be able to navigate their life properly, if you’re concerned, here are ten things you could help them to master in the year or so before they set off.
Being able to look after themselves physically is key when your teen is going off to college.
Having some basic cooking skills and the know how to prepare tasty, satisfying and balanced meals on a budget is something well worth getting right before they leave.
Teach them some basic pasta and rice dishes which can be made in bulk with cheap ingredients and padded out with all kinds of vegetables and meat.
Cheap ingredients like potatoes and other root veg also make a great base for inexpensive meals.
Make sure they know what kinds of flavour combinations go together, and have an understanding of how to cook different ingredients.
Physical health also involves getting enough exercise, drinking enough water and sleeping enough.
Encourage them to get into a healthy habits in the months or even year leading up to them leaving for college, and hopefully they’ll stick with it once they’re away.
Mental health is just as important as physical health, and it’s something that can take its toll on young adults.
In college there can be a lot of pressure, from deadlines to meeting new people to maintaining a social life and work at the same time- it can be a lot.
Make sure your teen knows how to care for their mental health.
It involves knowing when to have a break, and having relaxing activities they can do when they’re feeling stressed such as reading, journalling or meditating.
Encourage them to be open and honest with you about their feelings, speaking to loved ones can help to keep things in check, and it also means you can advise them to speak to a doctor if you’re worried about anything.
Religion or spirituality
If religion or spirituality is an important part of your family’s life, it’s worth encouraging them to keep up with this when they go away to study.
You could look into schools which are based around your religion, such as affordable christian colleges, or just look into what kinds of groups or church activities they have on or near the school’s site.
Religion and spirituality can be strongly linked to mental health and are a great way to keep things in check, but it also enables your teen to stay true to themselves.
If their faith is important to them, they’ll want to find ways to incorporate prayer, meditation or whatever practices they do into their routines.
Hobbies are a great way for teens to improve their skills outside of the classroom, and can be the perfect way for them to meet new people too.
While study is the main purpose of college, it’s also about the experience too- and socialisation does come into that.
If they have hobbies already, encourage them to continue once they’re away
– look for groups which meet up and do something similar.
If they don’t have many extra curricular activities, encourage them to start some up before leaving for college.
will give them common ground with other students making it easier to socialise and mean there are groups for them to join.
We all know that students live on a tight budget, it’s all part of the experience.
But it’s still important that they know how to manage their money, and stretch it out properly across the things that they need.
Budgeting is a crucial skill that all of us need to master in adulthood, and college is the perfect place to put it into practice.
Show them how to prioritise their outgoings, how to budget and which methods they can use to pay their bills.
Lots of students find themselves in debt as they’re offered credit cards and loans when they reach eighteen, but have no real understanding of the consequences of interest rates or repayment options.
Teaching them and making sure they’re aware of how these things work can really set them up throughout their studies and later in life.
In the year or so running up to them leaving for college, encourage them to get a part time job so they can save money.
Having a little buffer to leave home with can make life much easier, and as it’s money they’ve earned themselves (rather than handing it to them for free) chances are they’ll be more careful in the way that they spend it.
Depending on where abouts you live in the world, and where the college is located – it could be a good idea for your teen to be able to drive before heading off.
If it’s a little further out, being able to drive would give them the freedom of getting home during the holidays or some weekends.
It might also be helpful while they’re away, being able to get to social events, hobbies or part time work that’s a little further out.
If the college is in a big city with busy roads then it might not be worth taking a car, but it’s something to think about.
Driving will give them independence, and could make their life away from home a lot easier.
Even if they drive and take a car to college, it’s still useful being able to figure out public transport.
It involves being able to use the tube, train, trams and buses.
These days, it’s easy to find timetables and maps online so it’s not something that’s difficult to figure out, but if it’s something they’ve never done alone it can be daunting at first.
Make sure they’re aware of where the various public transport stops are around their college and which they’re likely to need to use to get to different places.
Again, in the months leading up to them leaving this is something they could practice – instead of giving them lifts or them driving, encourage them to get buses, trains and other forms of public transport to wherever they’re going.
It seems like such a simple thing, but if it’s something they’ve never really done before it can be quite scary and daunting in a brand new place.
Going off to college and living independently means that your teen needs to be able to do things for themselves.
They need to know how to do laundry and how to keep their surroundings clean.
Make sure they know how to use a washing machine, which settings to use and even how much detergent to put in.
They’ll need to know how to read washing labels in clothes, again it seems simple but if it’s something they’ve never done themselves, they could easily arrive at college and feel totally overwhelmed.
Ideally, these things will be second nature by the time they leave home, that way they’re free to get on with their studies without getting bogged down with simple chores.
Even if it seems obvious to you, check and make sure they can do these things before they leave for college, ideally get them to start doing their own laundry and cleaning so they’re in good habits.
The last thing you want is for them to get their and their dirty clothes start piling up, or worse, they start wearing dirty clothes because they’re too lazy or don’t have the know – how to go about it.
One of the most important skills to master when you’re at college is organization.
Your teen’s days will be busy, when they’re not studying they’ll be socialising and enjoying hobbies, hopefully some cleaning and exercising will be thrown in there too.
To get it all done, organization is key.
This can involve everything from writing important dates on a calendar to working from to- do lists.
They could create study schedules- anything that’s going to allow them to fit everything in.
Allowing your teens to be independent before leaving home can help them to figure out what works for them.
Give them space to make mistakes, and let them see for themselves.
By the time they leave for college, they’ll hopefully have enough experience in managing their lives that they’ll get it right most of the time.
A work ethic
Finally, a strong work ethic is essential.
It’s something that all of us need if we want to be successful, and it’s important to have – right from your college years.
Teaching your teen how to set goals and work towards them is a great way to build work ethic.
Find out what their passions are and goals for the future and go from there.
Remember, this is about their goals not yours, support their dreams even if it’s not what you’d have picked yourself.
College is hard work, it needs to be something that they genuinely want to do to have a strong work ethic for it.
Things Your Kids Should Master Before Heading to College
Gaining knowledge and learning skills for these “things” discussed in this article will give your teens the boost they need in this ever increasing competitive world.