Preparing Your Teen for College

Man carrying a bin of pictures walking on a sidewalk with a young woman walking next to him carrying a yoga mat and a small teddy bear with a graduation cap on it.


August is almost over (how did it come and go so fast?), which means back to school and off to college.

Everywhere you look there is another article on what kids need to know before college. I’ve complied my own list as it pertains to mental health.

Here are nine things that parents should make sure their kids know before leaving the nest:

1. It’s okay not to be “okay.” While many of your incoming freshman may have dreamed of going off to college for years, the reality is often a lot different than the fantasy. Making new friends, sleeping in a new place, getting along with a roommate, and finding people to eat with can all be incredibly intimidating.

2. Where to go for assistance if things are overwhelming. Most campuses have a counseling center, or educational resources. Encourage them to seek them out if they need help. Everyone in there is probably feeling as awkward/embarrassed as they are.

3. People will be better than them at things, and that’s okay. In high school, your teen may have been a superstar student, athlete, etc. Guess what? At their school, maybe everyone is a superstar student, so that thing that made them special doesn’t quite anymore. This doesn’t mean they’re doomed to a mediocre life.

4. Mistakes are okay and how we learn. Try not to let them define the person they are. As Winston Churchill said, ”Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.”

5. Lives on social media are not always real lives. (This is a good life lesson too). Their friends at other colleges may be posting pictures where they look like everything is amazing. No one posts the times they cry under a blanket or don’t eat dinner because they have no one to eat with.

6. What consent looks and sounds like, and how to handle tricky situations. Teach assertiveness skills and empower them to know it’s okay to say “no.” Police in the UK created this video ,which is one of the better explanations I’ve seen of consent.

7. How to handle an emergency or just being sick on their own. There’s nothing like being sick away from home to make you homesick (trust me, I remember this one personally). Send your teens with a first-aid kit with things like Tylenol or cold medicine.

8. That it’s now their job to fix or improve things. College professors do not appreciate parents intervening on their student’s behalf. Make sure they know how to advocate for themselves, and how to take responsibility if they missed a deadline or assignment.

9. And most importantly, how to do their own laundry so they don’t end up with an all pink wardrobe=)

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