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Talking to Your Teen About College

Teen walking across college campus holding books, face obscurred
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You can tell a child is growing up when he stops asking where he came from and starts refusing to tell where he is going.

Author unknown.

Probably the most important thing to keep in mind when preparing your child to go to college for the first time is to talk with them (dialogue) as opposed to talking at them (lecturing).

Young people, like most adults, tend to respond more favorably when they are treated with positivity and respect and are fully contributing members to their own circumstances. If they are seen as an adult, then they will also begin to act as one.

When they are at college, they are going to need to make adult decisions for themselves, so starting the process before they go will help them to make those decisions wisely.

As they do at home, issues and problems will certainly arise. And, while most college students still have contact with their parents and will not need to make decisions entirely in a vacuum, if they can learn effective problem solving skills, then all the better for both their self-esteem and self-confidence.

Most importantly, when healthy or positive decisions are made, make sure to validate them. When poor decisions are made, explore how they came to that conclusion. It’s important to look into the thought process together and see the reasoning behind the decision. Really explore and examine so that the young person can see what process they went through. Did they not take certain things into account?

If you have not talked with them previously, then the time to start is now. Topics that may need to be explored include:

  • Sex.
  • Alcohol / drugs.
  • Treatment of others.
  • Study patterns.
  • Mental health and wellness.
  • Money (especially the concept of debt and credit).

How to have conversations with your teens:

  1. Leave out the formal sit-downs. A planned and scheduled time to “sit down to talk to mom and dad” can only instill dread and fear in anyone. Instead, have a conversation while doing something that you all enjoy doing together (something that doesn’t involve a screen or loud music), and let the conversation flow naturally.
  2. Lead with an open and peaceful heart. Picture your child as someone you have just met, and accord them the same dignity and respect in the conversation. As we all know, lectures never have the effect that we would like for them to have. (Have you ever changed your behavior simply because someone told you to stop doing it, even if it was dangerous, ill-advised, or detrimental to your health? Has your teen ever changed their behavior willingly just because we pointed out that it was dangerous or detrimental to their future self? )
  3. Focus on the positive that is already occurring. Your teen or young adult is already making some decisions well; focus on exploring the good in those decisions. For instance, though it might have been hard to refuse that drink or to go out of their way and chose not to befriend someone who might be a negative influence, how did it make them feel afterwards?

Discover more tips on talking with your teen in my complete article.

My wish for you today is that you enjoy your time with your children before they leave to become adults.

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