Phew! This past week I just got through a very stressful and challenging event with my young adult daughter. She got into an accident (not too bad) with our van on I94 expressway just
leaving Ann Arbor at rush hour. Thank goodness she and the other person were not injured, but my heart went out to her. Of course she was quite shaken up, and frightened. When you are in that state, it’s hard to gather your wits to first, find the immediate things needed (registration, insurance) second, to just keep it together to figure out what other tasks need to be done and
then, to DO them!
Despite the initial tears and confusion, she did GREAT, and I do believe this turned out to be a valuable learning experience on a variety of levels. One was the opportunity to see that she could handle this. My initial reaction was, “I’ll be right there!” but good for her, she declined that type of support. Instead, we stayed in close contact via phone and text, just making sure she took care of all necessary steps. Second, I know this impressed upon her even more that bad things can happen so stay EXTRA alert and EXTRA cautious when possible. Third, she could still drive! She forced herself right back into the “saddle” and drove the van further into Ann Arbor to the body shop. There were no cries for rescue. I met her there, we took care of the business and then I drove us home.
My baby girl looked like a wreck, but she kept going!! She knew that she had to follow up with the insurance and she did!! She knew she had to follow up with her dad, and she did!! That might have been the hardest part of the entire situation for her, but she did it and because SHE owned up to it instead of having Mama come in as referee, it all turned out MUCH more pleasant for everyone.
A big lesson learned on my end was this: Taking care of your young adult child, while it always means that we encourage and give advice, it does NOT mean that we should run to their side and take over the hard part of dealing with the difficult situations that they find themselves in. Allowing them, even insisting on them to deal with the uncomfortable, the scary and the unknown affords them more dignity and confidence in the end.
Back to Money! Well did you think about what you want your college children to learn about money? I have a great idea!! How about the skill of simple budgeting? It doesn't matter whether their monthly source of money is coming from you, from what they managed to save over the summer, or a regular job they are going to have while on campus or a combination of all three. Whatever the source(s), keeping a monthly budget is an essential skill that promotes life time financial success, plus a few other bonus benefits.
Making a budget and sticking to that budget grows discipline. DISCIPLINE grows SUCCESS in all areas of life ( education, faithful relationships, health and fitness, and personal organization, just to name a few). Discipline shouldn't be considered a rude, boring, or uncomfortable word or concept, either. It's funny how many people unconsciously shiver or shrink away a bit whenever this particular word is brought forward. Why is that? People seem to envision crowded walls and chains of labor whenever 'discipline' is mentioned. Instead, however, I propose that it is a word of FREEDOM and JOY because with it brings a great peace of mind. You're at peace because you're not experiencing extreme confusion and uncertainty in your life on a daily basis. All life has some confusion, some uncertainty, but why exacerbate the possibilities? So MONEY, being one of those factors which can either enhance or reduce many areas of life (social, basic living, transportation, etc), should certainly be one of the top area that anyone can gain more discipline in, therefore the BUDGET.
College is a great time to start this seriously because this is where it can be the SIMPLEST for there are fewer categories upon which to focus. A typical college student living in a dorm would probably have the following categories: phone bill, books, basic school supplies, transportation, cleaning supplies, entertainment, clothing, and gifts. If the student lived at home, ok, delete the cleaning supplies, BUT if they decide to move into a house or apartment in their junior + years, then of course more categories are required. So you see, life can get more complicated sooner than you think, therefore the GREAT advantage to starting out in the beginning when life is 'simple' and 'easy'.
As parents we can't dictate the use of a budget, but we can certainly advise the practice, send an email with suggested categories and encourage from that point. Also, we can stop (if we have the tendency) being the endless money tree for our children and not leap into giving the moment there is something our college child WANTS that they can't or do not care to pay for. For our kids to 'ADULT', we have to let the process play out. It's like when they were babies learning to walk. We had to let them fall sometimes. They fell, they survived and they got strong.
There's a lot of planning that goes into the college experience and it begins at home. What do I take? What do I leave behind? Better time management, stress reduction , and increased preparedness and readiness for the busier days to come are great benefits for engaging your college student in the PLANNING process now. I'm not saying that the PLANNING process will cause less stress, especially that first step where he/she actually sits down to DO it, but once the process BEGINS (and we all know how hard it is to begin something that we're dreading), it gets easier and easier.
The first thing we're asking our students to plan for is WHAT they will need to take for their coming year. It is NOT the parent's job to plan for this because the parent is not the one who will be living there or learning to "adult" there. "Adulting" means that one is learning to access their OWN situation and respond accordingly. So here is the FIRST step! And isn't it great that they get to do it in the "safety" of their own home with you?!! After the student writes down their plan for this first phase of the college experience, then YES, they should share with you, the parent, being open to any categories or items they might have missed or not thought of, but it is THEIR job to act on it. We the parents are learning to stop the hover crafts now, bit by bit. It is a slow learning process for us as well. You'll see, though, this WILL be a great thing! Gather your pearls!
So here we are, mid August, and the time is drawing near, college time! And if this is your child's FIRST year, the excitement, the enthusiasm OR the dread will start to show a little bit at a time. The emotions could show in their eagerness to start school shopping now, or their look of doom and cries of "What if's", like "What if I don't like my roommate?' or "What if I can't find my classes?", or "What if I get homesick or don't like the food or, or, or" and on it goes. Some personalities respond to the coming stress by just shutting down all talk whatsoever and acting like nothing new will be happening. Finally, two other behaviors come to my mind. Your child might be coming to you with a greater need for hugs and affection OR they might try starting arguments for no good reason other than THEY are stressed. Oh boy! This is quite a mix of possibilities, not to mention the rare bird that is cool as a cucumber ready, eager but emotionally calm to begin their new adventure. By far, this is the easiest "reaction" to deal with as a parent, but for those of us NOT so lucky, make sure YOU have time to breathe, and think so that you can have the calming effect upon your son or daughter. Our children look to us, the parents, for clues as to how they should react to certain situations. Yes, this happens even at the age of 18 too, although they would absolutely deny it. They just can't help it. It's been ingrained in them since birth. So, be the clue to positive thought, patience, and an approach to life which goes like this: One Step AT a Time!! And of course, offer LOTS of hugs!! :)