We live in a college town, with two state universities close by, as well as New St. Andrew’s College. So we have lots of college students in our community and in our church. Over the years I have talked to many college girls, and their questions usually have to do with four things: Dad, guys, roommates, or (if they are seniors and it is the spring) future plans. (Funny how it is seldom about school!) So with the fall coming, and with the students due to arrive in our small town in just a very few weeks, I thought I would put together a few tips for parents who are sending their daughters off to college. Later I’ll write another post for the daughters.
Tip Number One: Make sure you are sending your daughter off on a good note and with a full tank. Dads seldom understand the impact they have on their kids, especially on their daughters. Daughters who are sent off to college with a low tank will be looking in all the wrong places to get it filled. You don’t want your daughter to arrive on the scene too eager for male attention. If she is, she will get it, and it will be all the wrong kind. You can spot these girls (we call them needy buckets) by the way they hang on the guys, by the way they dress, by the way they hang around. Make sure this is not your daughter.
Tip Number Two: Give your daughter clear standards about how you want her to live, especially when it comes to the guys. Parents think they are doing their daughters a favor when they say something like, “We trust you completely to make all the right decisions, so we won’t give you any guidelines or curfews.” I have seen oh-so-many times how nice girls get roped into doing stupid and foolish things because they didn’t have clear-cut standards in place. It is actually a protection for a daughter when she has a curfew or stated expectations from her parents. It is a simple thing to say, “I have to be back by eleven.” But it’s hard to say if she doesn’t really have to be back by eleven. Then she is left to fend for herself, and she may not be any good at it. Do you want your daughter studying at some guy’s apartment until 2 a.m.? Well, unless you spell it out for her, most girls won’t have thought ahead about what they are going to do. And it’s fun. And it’s schoolwork after all, isn’t it? What is she going to do when some guy (who is oh-so-cool) is talking crudely to her or telling filthy jokes around her? Or she’s at some apartment for a party, and they are watching a skanky movie. Is she prepared for this? Has she ever thought about this before? Does she have a backbone? Mom and Dad need to make all their expectations very clear. This will be a blessing, believe me. Do you want her spending lots of one-on-one time with some guy you don’t know, hanging out for hours on end? Do you want her going to a local low-life joint to swing dance every week with whoever asks her? Make it clear. Nice girls can get themselves in bad situations. Teach your daughter to say, “No” and have her practice several hours a day.
Tip Number Three: Get the house/apartment rules in writing before your daughter moves in with a bunch of girls. Who is paying for what? Are guys allowed over at all? If so, when? Under what circumstances? What time do they have to leave? When we had boarders, we had house rules, but not every boarding house does. Don’t expect other people to be looking out for your daughter. They might, but they might not. It’s your job. What if the roommates have completely different standards? Is your daughter prepared to look out for herself? Does she have a backbone?
Tip Number Four: Check in often with your daughter. Find out how things are going. What kind of friends is she making? How are her studies going? Is she going to class? What time is she getting to bed? Where is she spending her time? Be a sounding board if she needs to sort things out with you over the phone. Don’t be afraid to tell her what you would like her to do, especially if she is asking. “Whatever you want, dear” is not always helpful. Ask questions. Does she have accountability? With whom? How will you know if she is drinking too much or hanging out with the wrong crowd?
Tip Number Five: Find a way to fly her home for every break, or find a way to go visit her. Keep connected. You are still accountable for her and for how she is doing. The college scene presents many temptations, and many young women are far from prepared. A good dose of home is a wonderful thing.
So am I saying girls shouldn’t go off to college? Not at all. Dumb girls should not go off to college.