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Advice to Parents with College Freshman

East Bay parent Stacey Gustafson offers suggestions for sending your kids out of the nest to college. She begins by quoting Frank A. Clark: "The most important thing that parents can teach their children is how to get along without them."

Like six million other parents, my child heads off to college for the first time this fall.  She’s on her way to becoming an adult.  Endless changes will bombard our kids from having a roommate for the first time to figuring out the magic behind time management.

A few useful tips can aid in making the transition to college smooth and painless.  However, your tears are guaranteed!

  1. Send care packages.  Your kids really count on getting reminders from home.  Don’t be stingy.  Fill boxes with candy, cookies, letters, pictures, toiletries, and gift cards.  Extra cash never hurts.  This will help them feel more connected to home.
  2. Write a contract.  Together set realistic academic and social goals with your student.  When your child knows what is expected, it increases the opportunity for success.
  3. Set a budget together.  Be clear about the portion your student will be responsible to pay for in college.  For instance, parents may pay tuition and school supplies yet the student is responsible for extras, such as late night pizza and toiletries.  Explain appropriate credit and debit card usage.
  4. Rent a refrigerator and microwave for the dorm room.  This enables you to exchange it at the college in case of malfunction.
  5. Get to know other parents.  Trade email addresses with other parents during orientation and move in day.  This creates a support network exchanging thoughts, ideas, and feelings and even offering reassurance when things aren’t going well. 
  6. Purchase text books in the most economical manner possible.  Used books, iPad, eBooks are available for lower prices than new.
  7. Let your student be the guide regarding communication. You will hear back more often from your student if you utilize a method they prefer, such as texting, instant messaging, emailing, or actual phone calls.  Find out if they would like to call once a week or text daily.
  8. Urge them to use on campus resources to problem solve.  Whether it’s roommate issues, grades, or scheduling problems, remind your student to get support from resident advisors, professors, and school counselors. 
  9. Encourage them to get involved.  Discuss that campus activities such club or intramural sports, volunteer opportunities, and campus jobs are great ways to enjoy college life and stay balanced.

10. Ask questions.  But don’t ask too many.  Listen carefully.

Children need the opportunity to make decisions on their own.  It’s time.  And remember that you have done a good job so far preparing them for their future.  Trust them.  They will surprise you.

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