It is that time of year again, where teens all over the country are getting ready to graduate high school and many are leaving home for the first time.
While this is sad and anxiety producing for the parents, teens may not be as prepared as they need to be for the transition to college and this can cause anxiety for the teens as well.
What teens should know before heading off to college
Dr. Melissa Deuter on www.psychologytoday.com explains the areas that teens should be proficient in before heading off to college. This will help the transition to college and help them have a positive college experience.
Emotional /psychological skills: solving problems, delaying gratification, self soothing
Friendship/interpersonal relationship skills: self-control, manners, apologizing
Romantic/ intimate relationship skills: coping with rejection, communicating
Financial Skills: balance bank account, saving, planning, paying bills
Academic/work skills: study skills, organization
Domestic/maintenance skills: cleaning dorm or apartment, fixing a flat tire
Self-Care skills: knowing when to relax, being assertive
Medical- care skills: buying prescriptions, know proper dosages for common medications
Modern day worries
These are just the basics. There is so much more teens need to know these days that generations before them did not have to contend with in college.
Now, they have cyber bullying, social media and electronics addictions, constant input from advertisers and the media, higher levels of depression, obesity, over-scheduling and higher parental expectations.
So, this bring up the question of how do we prepare our children for college during their younger years and if we didn’t address these issues previously, how can we play catch up this late in the game?
(Full disclosure: my first-born is headed off to college in two months!)
As my children were growing up, I started thinking about what life skills they would need for adulthood. I decided to teach them how to do laundry, pack their lunch and clean their rooms. They also made their own breakfast and learned to load/unload the dishwasher.
During middle school, children can learn a ton of relationship skills, how to handle social media, learn about allowance and thoughtful spending, start cleaning their own bathrooms and do homework with out much prompting.
As the kiddos head into high school, they can learn basic meal prep and self-care such as listening to music after a stressful day. Later high school years can consist of driving instruction, part-time jobs, dual enrollment (college skills), better study skills, relationship experiences and how to take medicine for basic needs.
It’s never to late to teach teens life skills. Sit down with your teen and list what they still would like to learn or send them to a life coach or counselor for teens to help them through this transition.
Your teen is really very capable
Emotionally healthy children and teens soak up knowledge, they want to learn and to please their parents.
By allowing teens independence to learn a new skill, teens thrive and grow confident in achieving their goals.
What teens want to know to prepare for college life
Try asking your college bound teens what they want to learn before they head off to college. Their answers may surprise you. My children wanted to learn to cook a few basic dinners that they really enjoy. Fast food and cafeteria food gets old quick at school.
My 16-year-old daughter answered my question about what she wants to learn before going off to college:
1-Know little tips and tricks for studying for college classes and staying on top of work
2-know how to cook 10 meals that are healthy
3-learn more about different cultures and different types of people so I can have meaningful conversations with others.
My son (the high school senior) answered the question with:
1-learn how to cook 5 different meals
2-get comfortable talking to strangers and adults
3-find my own personal way of organizing things in my life
My middle school daughter says she wants to:
1-know how to avoid scary guys that come up to me without making a scene
2-know how to manage my days and figure out what I am doing each day without getting too stressed
3-know how to prepare for finals without studying too much
As a mom and a children’s counselor, I find their answers so interesting. It truly shows their personalities. Being able to express their needs and worries is helpful in having a conversation about their futures.
Share your experiences
Take some time to talk with your teen about what college was like for you and if you didn’t go off to college maybe ask a friend’s college age student to speak with your child. Be honest. Teens know when someone isn’t being genuine. Social media is really helpful for this as they can connect in any way they feel comfortable.
Colleges know the drill
Most colleges have amazing websites to help the students get prepared for what to expect on their campus.
All colleges have some kind of student counseling center and many are free. Look up the counseling centers phone number and preprogram it into your child’s phone, with their help. This will allow them access help quickly before things get too stressful.
And some final words while we all shed a few tears…teens will handle some parts of college life smoothly and other areas will be a bit bumpy. We all learn best from the difficult parts of life. Those things we work harder at and preserve with will stick with us much longer. Let them figure some things out for themselves. Let them make mistakes. Listen to their worries and try not to solve them. You did a great job raising your little bird and now its time for them to leave the safety of the nest. (I’m not crying, you’re crying.)
Kim Martinez, M.S.
Tampa, Florida –toddler/child/teen counselor