December 5, 2022

As the parent of a college freshman, back to school just got a lot more complicated. On top of checking items off your seemingly endless to do list, you’re worried about your child leaving the nest for the first time. You know you’ve done your best up to this point, but you wonder if you’ve prepared them for what’s to come. To guide you through this transition, we spoke to Rosalind Wiseman, educator on ethical leadership and parenting expert.
“Your children are going to make lots of mistakes, so expect it and then hold them accountable and use it as a learning opportunity,” says Wiseman.
Wiseman shares advice on how parents can help their kids become resilient, independent, and financially responsible young adults in three ways.
Set up an away-from-home support system
“When children go to college, parents can embrace it as an opportunity to grow their relationship,” says Wiseman. “Now that students have been in school for a few weeks, they may be adapting to their new college lives. Calls home due to homesickness might be tapering off, for instance. What was once overwhelming during the first few weeks might feel normal now. Parents should take their cues from their children.”
Wiseman stresses that, in addition to parents, it is just as important that students have a support system that includes people on campus. “There is an appropriate level of ownership for the child to be making decisions about their own emotional and mental health with the support of the parent or person that’s been working with them before,” she says. “But, there is the expectation that there will be a support system that is there, from the RAs to the health services. Both the parent and people at the school are incredibly important. You don’t want to have one without the other.”
“[When supporting your child,] you want to validate their feelings, but keep in mind that the struggle is part of their journey, as is finding supportive friends and a social network at school—while you are always there in the background,” Wiseman adds. “And when they do call home to complain, remember that kids, even young adults, will call their parents to vent about the worst things happening. This doesn’t mean they aren’t experiencing good things as well.”
Hold them accountable for their actions
Parents can begin preparing to shift their role from that of caretaker to coach during late high school, according to parents.com. It’s important for parents to remember that, while they will still play an important part in the lives of their children, it will be significantly different.
It can be hard for parents to resist the urge to fix a child’s mistakes, even when they’re a young adult. “It is expected that college freshman living on their own for the first time, taking on new responsibilities, are going to make mistakes,” says Wiseman. “Expect those mistakes, and remember there is a difference between being supportive and enabling.”
Wiseman believes this is particularly important with freshman who rush sororities and fraternities. “They are socializing intensely, and academics are not the most important [priority] when you’re rushing, despite what the sororities or fraternities say,” she notes. “Just the lack of sleep from keeping up with pledge responsibilities alone can affect a student’s grades. It’s understandable that they want to create a group of friends, but it can be too hard to keep everything up.”
She recommends putting less pressure on the rush to find a group of friends and letting it happen organically. But, if a student does rush, or is not prioritizing their studies for other reasons, she says parents should let them take responsibility for their actions.
Hold them accountable for their money
Wiseman also encourages parents to fight the urge to bail their children out financially. “This is a learning experience. Your children are going to make lots of mistakes, so expect it and then hold them accountable and use it as a learning opportunity,” she says. “When they do things like overdraft, it’s frustrating and to be expected, and they need to learn from it. Focus on the larger picture of raising capable young adults rather than the immediate desire to help a child who may have spent too much money during their first year of college.”
“The student should come up with and be responsible for sticking to a budget,” she adds. “If you didn’t ask them to create a budget before they left for school, you can always help them create one now. Have them walk you through why they made the spending decisions they did in a spreadsheet. And they may need a little help making that spreadsheet because, for many of them, it’s the first time they’ve done something like this. And you can be the bank and give them a favorable interest rate when they need help, but it’s important that they pay you back.”
Wiseman also recommends parents talk to their children about credit cards before discussing checking accounts. “It will benefit them to understand the difference between paying off the minimum balance and paying off the total, and the amount of interest they’re paying. In my experience, one thing seniors in high school want to learn in school that they don’t is how to manage a credit card. I think that’s first and foremost.”
Learn more about Rosalind Wiseman, Educator on Ethical Leadership & Parenting and Social Media Expert.
Click here for more financial education resources on budgeting, debt and credit, and more.
Main contributor: Kerry Breen
This article is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be relied upon as investment advice or the basis for making any investment decisions. The views and opinions expressed may not be those of UBS Financial Services Inc. UBS Financial Services Inc. does not verify and does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information presented
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