Fatherhood can be challenging at every phase of a child’s development, especially when that child heads off to college. The challenges that come with guiding the development of a college-bound child require a combination of patience, commitment and preparation.
Here are eight tips that should be on every dad’s radar as their child prepares to continue their education after high school:
1. How to Pick a School that’s the Right Fit
When it comes to choosing the right school, the more information you have the better. To help you and your child weigh college options, costs and potential outcomes of their decisions, Time Magazine’s Find Your Fit college selection tool can be a great help. The online resource allows you to sort and search for schools based on the factors important to you including graduation rate, net cost of a degree, school size and more.
2. Teach Them (and Practice) Budgeting
When a child leaves for college shouldn’t be the first time they are left to figure out how to manage their money. Start early and equip your child with tools and support to learn how to make their money last while they are away. To help with budgeting, every dad should familiarize themselves with, and share, these great resources to help their growing young start off on the right financial foot:
- Easy-to-use Budget Worksheet from the Federal Trade Commission
- The Financial Empowerment Toolkit for Youth and Young Adults in Foster Care
- The FDIC’s Quick Tips for Managing Your Money for Youth and Young Adults
For more resources like these for dads and college kids, visit MyMoney.Gov.
3. Plan for an Unexpected Trip Home
At least once in every student’s college career, an unexpected trip home will be in order. Whether due to an unfortunate event or a once-in-a-lifetime family celebration, when it comes to needing to get home in a flash, dad is often the one getting the call for support. Before your student heads off to school, research and come up with a travel plan of action, budget and resource list. These will help you be ready when this inevitable need arises.
4. Must-Have Social Media Handles
Social media can be a powerful parenting tool if used correctly. One opportunity for dads to use social media to keep their college bound kid safe is wrapped in the power of a “follow.” Whether on Twitter, Facebook, or other social media, dads should follow the university social media to stay tapped into to critical university news like safety alerts, emergency notifications or scholarship opportunities. They also can provide good ideas about what to talk (or text) about with your child to stay connected while they are away.
5. Talk about Safety
One important concern dads should consider when a child leaves home is how to keep them safe. Dads are often used to being able to step in to protect their children, but when they are away at school, it may feel like all you can do is worry. Before your child heads off to college discuss smart ways to stay safe. These Top 10 Safety Tips for College Students from Fast Web are a great place to start.
6. How to Locate a Lost Device
When most dads send their kids away these days, they do so with at least one expensive device in tow. To help keep track of devices that are lost or stolen, every dad needs to download and use a device locator application. These can track laptops, cell phones, and almost any other device with Internet connectivity. Some of the most commonly used options are
Don’t forget to have your child set up a passcode or log in to help keep information safe if a device is stolen.
7. Learn Their Schedule
One of the hard parts of having a child in college can be adjusting to the change in schedules. Too many parents make the mistake of planning family vacations, events, and even calls during critical times like midterms and finals. To avoid these, search your child’s college or university website for the “academic calendar” to help plan family activities in a way that won’t disrupt your child’s academic success.
8. The Power of Communication
According to The Principles of Parenting: Communicating with Your Teen: “As teens get older, they will be spending more time away from parents and family. They will need to make decisions on their own. Although teens are gaining more independence from their parents, they are not experienced and need continuing parental guidance.”
The conversations you have with your teen over the next few years may be some of the most impactful. Don’t underestimate the power of weekly check-ins, visiting on parents’ day, and other opportunities to causally connect with your growing young adult.
Find more resources
These eight tips are just the beginning. There are bound to be situations where you need help beyond what a blog or book can offer. For these moments remember the National Responsible Fatherhood helpline is available to help fathers of children of any age. Just call 1-877-4-DAD-411. Find more resources on parenting young adults and connecting to college resources (including planning and financial aid) on our College 101 page.
Jovan Hackley, National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse team member and outreach and strategy consultant