Your child is heading to college, is he or she ready?
Every parent is guilty of doing too much for their child at times, but in most cases, parents start to release the reins a bit and allow their child to start doing things on their own as they grow and learn responsibility. But, what about the parents of high school or college-aged students who insist on doing tasks and chores for the child who is more than capable of doing them on their own?
Years ago, I had an interesting experience with a parent of a college bound student. And I’ve had similar experiences with others over the years, which is why I think it bears repeating.
One of the tools we use in psychology is adaptive behavior rating scales.
They give us a picture of whether a person is developing the skills they need to function at appropriate levels personally, socially, in terms of self-care and in the community. For instance, can they prepare a meal, count change, find an address, take care of their own hygiene, RSVP to an invitation, make their own appointments, etc….
I’ve had the experience of systematically going through a teenager’s development and having a parent get more than a bit nervous when they realize that their son or daughter has had so much done for them, for whatever reason, that they are ill prepared to live on their own in college.
Many times, parents don’t think about the daily functions their child will need to perform in their absence. When the reality of what those functions are kicks in, parents can start to panic just a bit.
Most parents don’t start out with the intention of making their kids unable to manage on their own. It sometimes happens quite unintentionally. However, the effects can be more than a little unsettling when your child is packing his or her suitcase to head to college, whether its 50-miles from home or 1,000 miles.
Suggestions for Parents
Think about the day to day things that you do for your kids, have to remind your kids to do, and wish your kids would do on their own. Here are just a few of the areas that come to light when working with parents:
• Getting themselves up in the morning:
I’ve heard every excuse…they are heavy sleepers, a bomb could go off and they ‘d sleep through it, it’s my pleasure to wake him or her, and it’s our time together….
If you are still waking your high school student on a regular basis, how will they be able to get up on their own in college and make it to their 8AM class? Of course, they will tell you that they would NEVER sign up for an 8AM class!
• Doing their own laundry: What if they run out of underwear – do they order more from Amazon each and every time? Do they keep Fruit of the Loom on auto ship? Don’t laugh…I’ve heard this one before!
Perhaps it would be good for them to know how to do laundry. When you are young and on your own, laundry usually starts at a laundromat or in the public laundry room of your dorm or apartment building. Do they know how to sort their laundry and what products to buy to do their laundry?
• Getting around on their own:
Getting around at home is much different than getting around in a new city, town, or college. A parent nearly hyperventilated when I asked her if she thought her son would be able to travel home from college for holidays on the train.
Could your child get on a plane or train and navigate themselves home?
Would they even know how to find flights or train schedules? Could they arrange their own transportation to the train station or airport?
• Make lists, shop, plan meals, cook:
Who makes the shopping list at home? What is essential to have in one’s kitchen? Can they make a list, can they shop, pay, unpack groceries, plan a simple meal, use some sort of cooking apparatus – think stove, oven, or crockpot?
Do you let your child be a part of the process of figuring out meals, buying the groceries and cooking the meals? One mom scoffed at me when I asked if her son would be able to make his own meals, until she realized where I was going with that question. She had made every meal, snack, and even gotten his drinks when he was thirsty. She wasn’t even sure he knew where the glasses were in the kitchen.
• Personal Safety:
Another area of concern for parents should be their child’s safety as they go out on their own. Has your child been taught to pay attention to his or her surroundings?
When they are out after dark in a new area, are they aware of how to keep themselves safe? Kids that have been kept under the wing of a parent may not have learned these types of coping skills. They have become accustomed to the parent ensuring their safety.
It’s important to let your kids do the tasks that they are developmentally capable of doing, as they age. Many parents show their love by taking on tasks that their child should be doing on their own. Instead of doing the task for them, spend the time teaching them the things they need to know so when you aren’t around, they can be self-reliant and confident in their ability to be a productive part of society.
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