Skills for College Life
“Mommy – is this my left hand?” asks my four year old daughter as she plays Twister with her cousins. Nicole proceeds to ask me this question at least 27 times during the game as she has not yet learned her left hand from her right hand. This sweet memory of my daughter is so vibrant that it could have been just last week but in reality it was 13 years ago. I know it is cliché to say “where did the time go” but to me there is no truer statement. My precious little girl has grown up into a confident, ambitious young woman and is heading to college in September.
Nicole and thousands of other teenagers are spending their official last summer of being a permanent resident in their family home. Amidst the mixed emotions of this epic time in a family’s journey comes the question- “Is she/he ready for life on their own?”
I am not talking specifically here about whether my daughter has learned to make good choices (that process started when she was a toddler and is reinforced every day) but whether my husband and I have provided her with very practical skills that will help her as she sets out on her own.
What to Learn Before Leaving Home
Here are a few practical skills or experiences that I know will help Nicole as she heads to college:
Laundry. I am fortunate that my daughter started doing her laundry the summer prior to her freshman year of high school. I am sure though that there are moms out there who still launder their teenager’s clothes. Moms – if your sons or daughters have never turned on the washer/dryer then it is time to get the detergent and bleach out and conduct laundry 101. Nicole has a friend who was a college freshman last year and owned enough clothes (including underwear) to last from September through November. At Thanksgiving, she brought her laundry home to mom! I don’t recommend this as I am sure there are not many teens who own 75 pairs of underwear.
Cooking. Most students will have a meal plan but there will be times that students will decide to forgo the alluring menu at the dining hall and make something on their own. It is wise to at least teach them how to boil water and heat pasta sauce. During my college years, pasta and tomato soup were a critical staple in my dorm room (and yes, I used tomato soup as a sauce on top of the pasta as I was a poor college student and could not afford the Ragu)! A few cooking lessons prior to the start of school seems appropriate and kind to your child and their taste palate.
Making a phone call. In my family, I have always been the family member responsible for scheduling doctor’s appointments, calling teachers when a grade or assignment question arises or scheduling haircuts. Teenagers need to learn how to communicate effectively with adults and to advocate for themselves both in person and on the phone. Although kids seem to never be without a cell phone these days it is usually to text and not to speak to someone. I suggest you start requiring that your teen take care of their own personal appointments and discussions with teachers and counselors early in their high school years so they are comfortable with adult interactions and being their own advocate whey they are finally out on their own.
I am confident that Nicole has the character to make good choices and the skills necessary to navigate college life. I do confess though that this knowledge is bittersweet as I still long to hear that little girl asking me – “Mommy, is this my left hand?”
Sandi White is the Vice President of Institutional Sales for Tutor.com and the mom of a seventeen year old daughter and a fifteen year old son.