Understandably, most parents put emphasis on academic achievement in preparation for successful transition of their offspring from home to college. Grades, national test scores, and a full slate of school activities are certainly things kids need to have in spades in order to be chosen by top schools, but those only open the door. Once they walk through it, diploma in one hand, acceptance letter in the other, will your kids be prepared?
I have raised two daughters and a son, and each time I looked back and wished I had given them a little more coaching on things outside the classroom. Smart and funny, they have all done well despite whatever sins of omission I committed. If I could do it over, however, here are some of the things I would work a little harder on.
First and foremost, what’s their money IQ? Seriously, kids need a really good grip on balancing a checkbook and managing a credit card balance. Not understanding how these things work can derail even the brightest kids if things get out of hand. Teach your kids how to handle money. The younger, the better. Instilling good habits like using the four banks, spend, save, invest and give, will help them keep their heads above water once they are out there navigating financial water on their own.
Do they know the basics of diet and nutrition? Sure, they will likely be served meals in the dorm, or in the sorority or fraternity house, but even then there are smart choices to make. Aside from the freshman 15, as in pounds they will pick up from having almost unlimited portion sizes and dessert served at every meal, do they know what to eat? And as important, why?
Along those same lines, do they know their way around a kitchen? Can they slice an onion? Cook an egg or a bowl of non-instant oatmeal? Boil pasta? Make a grilled cheese? If not, teach them. Again, it is likely they will have their meals served to them at first, but at some point, when you are not around, they will need to know these things. Better to have done them a time or two with some guidance from you than to have them calling in a panic, or worse, from the ER.
Do they know basic first aid? Please say yes, and if not, enroll them in a Red Cross class that gives them the standard stuff about CPR, burns, cuts, etc. And send them off with a first aid kit that includes bandaids, antiseptic ointment, acetominophin/ibuprofin, first aid tape, and gauze.
Lastly, do they have a healthy amount of street sense? Do they know not to go to places on their own or not to separate from friends at parties or events? Have they been taught to watch for strangers or people who seem out of place? Remember there will be late nights at the library or classroom and something as simple as walking to a parked car by themselves can be dangerous if they are naive or don’t know what signs to look out for. And finally, make sure they know how to handle an emergency, in the dorm or on the road.
Teaching your children about life on their own is just as important, if not more so, than helping them get a 4.0 GPA.