College can be frightful for parents
Expert insight can help address potential pitfalls for students
Yikes. Parents and step-parents, it's a hard pill to swallow. Dropping off your child at college can be as daunting of a task for you as it is for your college freshman. This fall, one of my step-children joins the rank and file of a few thousand at a northeastern institution of higher learning. Even as a step-mom, I worry.
Drugs, drinking, sexual activity, depression, weight gain, finances, safety and sexual assaults are all at the top of my concerns. Even if students make it to graduation day fairly safely, it's still not pretty. Finding a job post-graduation is not simple. Young people must wrestle with a double-digit unemployment rate; 85 percent of them will initially move back home with their parents, and that's up from 67 percent in 2006, according to a poll by researcher Twentysomething Inc.
"College isn't cheap," said Dr. Lori Hart, a Buckhead mother and professional speaker among college students. "It's not affordable anymore, and it's unrealistic that students can take on the necessary loans and get ahead once they graduate. They don't graduate to find good paying jobs in this economy."
When making a selection for college, the finance piece has to be very clear, according to Hart, who was recognized by Campus Activities magazine as speaker of the year and female performer of the year for her contributions as an on-campus speaker in areas including relationships, alcohol and fraternity and sorority Life.
Another important element in college selection is environment, and Hart's approach can be a chilly wake-up call.
"College is the most high-risk environment in regards to alcohol, drugs and other controlled substances; they are real, present and alive," she said. "It's very unrealistic to assume your child will not be impacted by these. If your student is already having issues with drinking, they'll be even more impacted at college; it will only amp it up even more.Now, marijuana is the equivalent of a beer."
Hart suggests that it's time for some hard conversations to address some potential issues before they ship to college .
But, Hart does offer some clarity. She cites a book written by David Walsh on the brain development of teens. Apparently, the front portion of the brain just behind the forehead is one of the last areas to mature, she said. It's the part of the brain that juggles information and foresees consequences and that sets goals and plans.
I'm beginning to see the light now, due to this new insight.
And, with that, Hart soon got down to business with these top tips for parents:
- Don't fix the problem for the student but guide him or her to find a solution.
- Get involved and know your child's friends at school. Friends can be your child's best asset.
- Always look for clues through records like Facebook, credit card statements and cellphone bills for activity that could lead to a downfall in grades. Don't wait until their grades come in the mail, she suggest. Get ahead of the curve.
- Find a way for the student to connect on campus for an improved chance of retention.
- And, her top suggestion for parenting a college student is help your student during thei junior year of high school pick the right institution based on environment, cost, peer students and the student's background and area of study.
My little one will hit her college campus in 2027. It's just around the corner. I guess it's never too early to practice patience and open the door for communications. After all, practice makes perfect, right? Thankfully, I've got a few years to try.