As the parent of a college student, you must strike a difficult balance. You want to support your child’s independence while also helping guide them away from obvious pitfalls. You want to give them career advice, but you don’t want to push them into a career they dislike or lack an aptitude for. You want them to get the best education possible, but you don’t want them to be saddled with paying off decades of student loans. It’s tough to navigate this stage, but the tips below can help you be the parent your child needs at this time.
Most parents can’t cover the entire cost of their child’s college education, and many are unable to help out much financially at all. However, even if you haven’t been able to put away money for your child’s education, you can take out a Parent PLUS loan to help with your child’s undergraduate expenses. The debt burden for this loan is on you and not your child. Later, you can look into your options to refinance Parent PLUS loans with a private lender if you need to cut back on your monthly expenses.
Work on a Budget
Too many student loans are not the only potential financial pitfalls awaiting college students. Some credit card companies deluge students with offers, and students do not have to go on big spending sprees or vacations to find themselves struggling to keep up with payments. Food delivery and other casual purchases can add up fast. Talk to your child about responsible budgeting. You may want to get them a secured credit card for emergencies. This involves a deposit against the line of credit, such as $500. This can help them get used to using a credit card without losing control of their spending and debt.
Know When to Let Go
Short of a serious crisis, such as a physical or mental health issue or legal problems, you have to let your child work out things on their own. While you should be available to give advice, you need to let your child deal with their issues with professors, employers and roommates. In general, this applies to landlords as well, but if there are safety issues, you may need to step in. How college-age students react to this kind of independence varies. Some would be mortified at the thought of their parents intervening while others may be texting you after every lessthanstellar exam or argument with a roommate. Even among your own children, you may observe differences, and some might need more support than others. A good guideline might be to listen, but don’t intervene.
Stay in Touch
If you do have one of those fiercely independent students who appears to fall off the map after you drop them off at the dorm, drop them a line regularly anyway. Friendly texts or emails with news from home that don’t pry but leave the door open for more communication may be desired even if your child doesn’t seem to acknowledge them.