Your son makes the Dean’s List, but doesn’t have a clue about how to budget his monthly expenses. Your daughter can plan a rocking party, but hasn’t spent any time planning her career. When you get a panicked phone call at 10:00 p.m. from your college student who doesn’t feel prepared for his exam the next morning, you’re ready to scream.
It can be frustrating when our college students say or do things against a background of obviousness.
Wisdom is the product of age and experience. Yet, as a parent of a college-age child, don’t you wish you could impart just a few of the life lessons you’ve learned along the way?
The “Push Me-Pull You” Parenting Dilemma
Parenting a college student can be tricky. They tend to ask for advice and push back against it — often in the same conversation, not unlike Doctor Dolittle’s “pushmi-pullyu” creature.
Maura Koutoujian, a career and life coach in Jody Michael Associates’ Chicago office, works with many high school and college students as they explore career options. She says that one of the best ways to help your college-age child is to empower them.
It’s one thing to tell your panicked student that if he would’ve studied earlier in the week, he wouldn’t be in this jam, and completely another to ask him what he can do differently to feel better prepared for the next test. While the former might be the more tempting approach, the latter gives him ownership of the problem — and potential solutions.
20 Life Lessons for My College Student
Many conversations with our life coaching, career coaching and executive coaching clients reveal a common theme: “I wish I would have known better/learned earlier …” They often speak to their college years, when seemingly endless opportunities stood at their door — only they didn’t realize it at the time.
Fortunately, you can use your hard-earned wisdom to help your college student make the most of these years — and prepare them for a successful future.
“Teaching your child to ‘travel in a purposeful manner towards a potentially unknown destination’ is very empowering,” Maura advises parents of high school and college students.
“While emphasizing the importance of being deliberate in their decision-making, it also allows for adjustments along the way. In the process, your child develops emotional agility and resilience.”
This is the truest way to empower them.
Following are other life lessons that can help empower your college student:
- Own it. It’s time to step up to the plate and accept responsibility for your actions and reactions. Blaming and complaining create a negative spiral that leads nowhere. When you encounter a challenge, seek solutions.
- Design your career. Your passion may or may not translate into your best-fit career. Don’t let “should’s” guide your career path. Develop both the self-awareness to know what’s right for you — and the skills to pursue your goals.
- Drive safely. Never text and drive. Never drink and drive.
- Give for the joy of giving. True generosity is when you expect nothing in return.
- Control technology — not the other way around. Never be too busy recording a moment to enjoy it to its fullest.
- The guideline “Don’t post anything to social media that you wouldn’t want your grandma to see” has been replaced by “Don’t post anything to social media that you wouldn’t want your boss/future employer/potential client to see.”
- Nurture relationships. If you care about someone, show it. Make time for them. Respect them. Do nice things for them “just because.”
- “Don’t continue watering a dead flower” — give up, let go and move on when a relationship ends. Learn from it. Put your energy into growing a relationship that matters.
- Change your linens once a week.
- Multi-tasking is a myth. You can trick your brain into doing two things at one time, but neither will get your full attention.
- Take care of your body. Physical well-being is easier to maintain than to achieve. Sticking to a healthy eating plan is easier than trying to stave off disease, like diabetes, later.
- Leaving it up to everyone else puts democracy at risk. Your vote counts as much as anyone else’s. If you feel uninformed, educate yourself. Decide what issues matter most to you, and see how the candidates feel about them.
- Develop the traits that will make you an evergreen employee. Give it your all. A strong work ethic, respect and desire to learn will serve you throughout college, career — and life.
- Be resourceful. One of the greatest life skills you can have is knowing when to ask for assistance and where to find it.
- Make prudent financial decisions. Spend within your means. Save money to buy something you really want. Spending before earning creates a financial burden that cancels out the pleasure of the purchase. There is no price tag on your peace of mind.
- Try new things, for the right reasons.
- Say “please” and “thank you.” They are still the magic words.
- Never assume you’re too old to learn a new way of doing something, whether that means cooking, dancing or embracing new technology.
- Embrace curiosity. It will make your life richer than any tangible object. Learning doesn’t stop when your final semester ends; in fact, the real-world lessons you’re about to experience may be far more profound. Be open to learning, growing and realizing your potential.
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