So, your kid is off to college. Away from home, and your constant care, pampering, and yes, nagging too! He’s high on achievement and a sense of ‘growing up’ and probably somewhat transparently excited at the thought of snapping those apron strings. You love him to bits and are proud of him growing up. But the separation anxiety is beginning to manifest, along with a wee bit of hurt that he is so excited to be going away from you! Right?
Also, if your ready-for-college child happens to be a girl, the anxiety increases exponentially, with a whole new set of safety and discretion related concerns. So, how do you deal with it? And even more importantly, how do you help your child prepare for the change and the pitfalls that you can see so clearly, but which she is too young and inexperienced to perceive?
First of all, be happy for them and with them. Be supportive and share in their excitement, and DO NOT try to guilt them for being happy, out of your own insecurities. They may not show it, but deep down they are a little anxious and insecure too. By all means, tell them how much you’ll miss them (they probably want to hear that, even though they’d never admit it), but be strong and upbeat about it. Tell them you’ll always be there for them, just a phone call away.
And most importantly, teach them some basic survival skills before they leave the fold, just like all the birds and animals teach their growing young ones.
1. Cleaning And Washing
Most kids take the cleanliness of their living space and the maintenance of their clothes for granted. Either mom or the household help is doing all this. But in the college dorm or PG facility where your child will be staying for the duration of his college life, he will have to learn to manage these for himself. At least a month before he leaves, prod him to pick after himself, dust his room and learn to soak his clothes, rinse them and hang them out to dry at the time of his bath itself, to save time. If he is going out of the country or to any other place where they have laundry facilities, impress upon him the absolute need to do his laundry regularly – at least once a week. Also teach him to iron his clothes – at least the formals for special occasions. You really don’t want him living in filth, wearing dirty clothes, stinking and harbouring all kinds of germs!
2. Basic Cooking
Most places where college kids live have provision for reasonable decent food, as well as several joints catering to their needs and tastes. Plus, markets all over are flooded with ready-to-cook packaged meals of all mainstream cuisines. Nevertheless, it is always useful to know how to do simple, one-pot dishes like stews, khichdi, upma etc, for those occasions when going out to eat would cut into their crucial study time, or when they are not feeling well (and yes, that is bound to happen occasionally, however much you wish otherwise). So, add a small rice cooker and electric mixer (unless he is going to the US, where the power settings for gadgets are different), along with a couple of pots and pans to the stuff to be packed, and of course, a list of basic spices and kitchen ingredients which he can procure from the local market as he settles down.
3. Coexisting With Strangers
Kids never realize while they are living at home, the extent to which their parents build their lives around their needs and wishes. And so, going into a new environment and adjusting with roommates can sometimes pose a real problem. Some kids are flexible by nature and have good social skills, and for them, this is less of an ordeal. But if your child has been used to having things her way, or is not very sociable or outgoing, she needs to be made aware of the necessity of sharing her living space amicably with others and living in harmony. Simultaneously, however, she also needs to be warned not to let herself be pushed or put down. Take stock of the situation and the kids she will be living with and trust your instincts. And if need be, intervene with the relevant authorities and take steps to change her living arrangements. Even after she moves, take constant feedback and advise her.
4. Managing Money
You will, of course, have made your own suitable financial arrangements for your child’s money needs at college. However, kids, once away from home, often find themselves short of funds, simply because they have never managed their living expenses themselves – food, books, notes, laundry, sundry knick-knacks, the occasional party with friends – can all amount to startling totals. If outside the country, your child may do odd jobs or assist professors in augmenting his finances, but within India, very few students do that. Teach your child a few simple things about living frugally; buying books second hand, or online at discounted prices rather than from overpriced university bookstores; keeping an eye out for student discounts that pop up from time to time on books, food, clothes, etc. in university areas.
5. Posting Sensibly On Social Media
Sometimes new-found freedom from home can send kids a little whacky, especially while enjoying themselves with friends. And the sequel, of course, is posts and pictures on social media. However, this is highly inadvisable, to say the least. Not only does it give fodder to possible cyber stalkers, but can also come back to bite them while applying for jobs. Employers nowadays rely a great deal on findings on social media profiles of prospective candidates to gauge their characters and desirability as employees. And any youthful indiscretions like inappropriate pictures or content might blight their employment prospects. So, advise them to be very careful of what they post on social media.
6. Balancing Work And Fun
Away from your vigilant eyes and on their own for the first time, kids do tend to slip up initially, and go just a little wild. Impress on them the need to balance out their course work and their fun time. Make them understand that you don’t have a problem with them enjoying themselves, but they need to keep up to speed with their work too.
7. Staying Safe
Your child’s safety was always a legitimate concern, and in these days with horror stories all over the place, it is even more so – not only for girls but even for boys. Impress on your child the need to stay safe. While moving out of college campus or to less frequented spots, or late at night, there is safety in numbers. Plus, a short course in basic self-defense does not come amiss for anyone. There are also numerous safety apps that connect you to authorities at the press of a button in emergencies. And good old pepper spray is, of course, a must-have accessory for every young girl!
8. Managing Stress
Far from home, fending for themselves, and with no parents around to monitor their stress and cater to it without their realizing, kids can get really overwhelmed and stressed out with the business of living and studying away from familiar territory. It is thus essential to teach them how to manage their stress levels before they leave for college. A regular exercise routine is the first step in this – be is stretching and bending exercises, a jogging routine, gymming, cycling or yoga and pranayama – whatever works for each child. Only it has to be regular to release pheromones or ‘feel good’ chemicals into the body on a sustained basis and keep them upbeat. Some basic meditation and relaxation techniques, lots of water intake and healthy eating habits are the other important components of stress management that your child needs to know and imbibe.
9. Staying Connected
Kids can sometimes show a tendency to be over ‘indepedent’ and ignore parents’ phone calls, seeing them as ‘clinging’ or ‘coddling’. However, keeping in touch regularly is important, not only for your peace of mind, but also because the expectation of regular phone calls from home which he ‘has to’ answer can sometimes act as a deterrent to undesirable influences and actions, and thus, a safeguard for your child. Make your child understand that even if he finds the thought of regular phone calls constraining, he needs to respect your concern for him and always answer your phone. He can even set a separate ringtone for your numbers of it helps. Believe me, after he’s been out there for some time and is over his initial euphoria, he’ll thank you for it!
10. Managing Illness
While away at college, your child might sometimes succumb to minor maladies or infections. In such cases she needs to have a stock of emergency medications – basic over-the-counter stuff like analgesics, a broad-spectrum painkiller, medicines for upset stomach, diarrhoea and vomiting, anti-allergen, cough syrup, a few band-aids, antiseptic and anti-fungal ointments, a pain relief gel or spray, some salve and bandages, a heating pad and some laxatives and antacids. She also needs to be able to cook a simple nourishing, one-pot meal such as khichdi or a stew to sustain herself till she gets better, or till someone can get to her or she can seek help.
The big thing is to prepare your child for a balanced, positive, enjoyable college life that will lay the foundation for a happy, successful life!
About The Author:
Parul Gupta, our Edu-blogger, is a person with many hats -- writer, editor, economic analyst, writing skills coach, workshop facilitator -- all of which she fits around being a full-time mom and homemaker. Her personal blog 'At Random' (www.parulg0.wordpress.com) is her pensieve (Harry Potter fans will understand) and she can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org