Monday, May 27, 2013

7 Things your kids should leave behind when they go to college

It’s that time of year. The weather is growing cooler, the leaves are getting brighter and now that your kids have started another semester of school, you can’t help but think about the day you send them off to college – especially if you have a high school senior at home.

Well, before you pack them up and ship them off with your eyes full of tears and a bank account full of nothing (after paying for your kid’s first year of school), here are seven things you should remind your son or daughter to leave behind.

The old flame. Unless they’re heading to the same college, it’s time to bid the high school sweetheart goodbye. They may be convinced that they’re the exception to the rule, and even though everyone else’s long distance college relationships have failed, their's won’t. Sorry to break it to you, but chances are, they’re not the exception. If your son’s high school girlfriend is the greatest thing that has ever happened to him, don’t worry; odds are good that he’ll meet someone just as lovely, wholesome, and likely more mature, in college. And she’ll be good for him, too.

The word “like.” While it has its purpose in the English vocabulary, the word “like” has been used (excessively, at times) and abused as a “filler” term. With the equivalent of “um,” those who over use this word often leave listeners with an impression of immaturity and adolescence. Neither of which are the type of first impression your child wants to leave with their new college buddies. So, if they have a habit of using “like” as an adverb, adjective, noun and preposition - all in the same sentence – then it’s time they start weeding it out of their vernacular.

The letterman jacket. So they played 12 different sports in high school. Great, but nobody at their new school cares. They’re not being mean, they just live in the present, and presently, your son doesn’t play on a single organized sports team. Unless of course he is a student athlete, in which case, he still shouldn’t sport the letterman. He is part of a new school now, a new program, a new team. Time to move on. If your kid enjoys sports, and really is talented, he or she will want to sign up for intramural sports. They can show off their stuff on the field or court, rather than on their shoulders.

The need to be popular. Not to be confused with the need to fit in, or be liked. It’s one thing to have real friends and another to try to work your way into a crowd that everyone seems to like, even if you have nothing in common with them. It’s not high school anymore. Your child will meet a lot more people, with a lot more interests and different life experiences. While cliques still exist, and always will, your daughter will be much better off if she finds a group of friends that make her feel important and happy. Not the group that looks like they just walked out of an Ambercrombie & Fitch catalog. The nice thing about college is that your kid isn’t stuck inside the same building all day with the captain of the football team and his cheerleader girlfriend. She doesn’t have to compare herself to them. She can learn to accept herself for who she is, and find friends who do the same.

The entire bedroom. Odds are that everything your teenager kept in her bedroom at home will not fit in her 5’ x 5’ excuse for a dorm room. In fact, she may be lucky to get half of it in there. Especially after she fills up the top three drawers with nothing but her bathroom inventory. This may be a good time to introduce consolidation. Good luck.

The funny stories from home. Sure, they’re side-splittingly hilarious when your boy tells them around the family and his high school buddies. But his new roommates aren’t going to know his high school friend, Jason, from Adam. As a result, he’ll start ending all his stories with, “I guess you had to be there,” since they won’t be nearly as funny to a disassociated audience. Now, before you start claiming I suggested your son forget the fond memories of his youth, be aware, that is not what I’m implying. Those experiences are valuable, and may have even played a role in shaping him into the young man he is today. They ought to be preserved. But now that he is in college, he has the chance to make a lot more stories with a new group of comrades. And his friends will actually laugh with him when he tells them – because they were there.  

The fear of unfamiliarity. Some of us handle this better than others, but if your teenager is remotely similar to the rest of us, they prefer to stay within their comfort zone. While there is nothing inherently wrong with being comfortable, your child will miss out on some amazing experiences if they choose never to venture beyond their limits of contentment. Speaking up in a class of 500 peers, getting involved in their favorite student organization, going skiing when it’s the first time they’ve ever seen snow, or asking out that hottie who sits in the front row of class each week. They may all require courage. And in return, they may all pay great dividends. Everything in college is new. If they’re prepared to embrace that unfamiliarity, their first year will be a richer and more memorable experience.

Transitioning to college can be a difficult and exciting time for your teenager. It’s a time to grow up, experience new things, meet new people and face different challenges.  Knowing what they can expect, and what to pack or send with them, can help ease that transition – for both them and you. So the next time (or the first time) you send your daughter off to college, and you’re trying to keep the hernia at bay while hauling her 500 pound suitcase out the door from her downstairs bedroom, you’ll reflect on this list and be grateful that at least she didn’t pack the letterman jacket.    

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