Make your home page

10 things parents should teach their kids before they head off to college

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – I remember being 17.

I was a senior in high school, and at my age, a young college freshman.

I worried. A lot. About who I was, who I was going to be, and simply, how it would all turn out.

Did I know the basics about life? Yes. Or at least I thought so.

My one regret? Credit cards. I wasn’t terrible with them, but I certainly didn’t quite understand how to manage them.

If you have a high school student headed off to college (or maybe you’re just an early planner), here are 10 important things all kids should know before they leave home, according to

#1: How to make doctor appointments.

Hmm. This is a tricky one. Kids are used to mom (or dad) setting everything up for them, but once they turn 18, we don’t have access to their medical records without their permission. Make sure they know what to look for in a doctor and how to advocate for themselves at an appointment, something especially important for women.

#2: Oh, and the same applies to dentist appointments, too.

They need a cleaning TWICE a year. That’s a regret I have to this day. I put off dentist appointments when I shouldn’t have. Get those checkups!

#3: Prescriptions and how to get them filled.

Kids need to know how to order medications and when to order them. Do they have a copy of their insurance card and prescription card? A photo on their phone, perhaps? What about generic brands or co-pays? Do they know how those work?

#4: Who to call in case of a medical emergency.

Of course, kids can always call mom and dad– but does your kid know the difference between a doctor’s office, a hospital ER, or a local urgent care clinic? Do they know when to use each? And if they’re not sure, let them know they should never hesitate to get the help they need.

#5: Money management, budgeting, and how a credit card works.

This is a biggie. It’s easy for kids just out of high school to get caught up in the shininess of credit cards and all of a sudden “having money.” So ask yourself, “Do they know how interest works?” Eek. Explain this to them. It could avoid a future lifetime of headaches and frustration. Credit cards are NOT free money. Help them budget. Save. Build good credit. Balance a checkbook. Pay off those balances each month.

#6: Laundry, how to do it, and how to use a laundromat (if they’re not bringing dirty piles of laundry home to mom and dad).

Unless your kids are experts at doing laundry, give them a refresher. Are they using pay machines in a dorm or apartment? Do they know how to use them? Maybe a quick tour of a local laundromat can’t hurt!

#7: Budgeting and grocery shopping.

Even if your kid is on a meal plan in college, they’ll still likely be buying essentials from time to time. Are they familiar with state taxes that may apply to food? Do they price comparison shop? Help them get “the most bang for their buck,” if you will. The extra money adds up! If you’re like me and have a kid who “loves their Starbucks,” maybe teach them the difference between brewing their own coffee each morning, instead of making those daily Starbucks runs. It might be a big wake-up call!

#8: The importance of sleep and overall self-care.

As college kids, they’ll likely be pulling all-nighters, but kids need to understand that lack of sleep can take a serious toll on their minds and bodies. Explain to them the importance of hydration and nutrition, so they’re fueling their bodies with actual food — especially at breakfast — and not just Monster drinks.

#9: How to make good choices about issues they’ve never faced before.

Play the “what if” game. “What if someone you don’t know offers you a drink?” “What if you get into a car accident?” Give your kid a chance to think it through. Praise them for their good responses or suggest a different option they may not have considered.

#10: It’s okay to ask for help. Always.

No matter what, let your kids know you are always there for them. You’re available, without judgment. Day or night, it doesn’t matter. Their safety, mental health, and well-being are the most important.

That said, somebody pass the tissues. This college era may be over for me, but my daughter Avery? Just 7 years away from her freshman year. How is that possible?

Once that time comes, I hope I’ll have prepared her enough. Or rather, prepared myself enough– because our job as parents is to raise them SO well, that when the time comes, they are ready.

So WE are ready.

Even if as mommas, we’re never really ready.

Worrying is part of our job. It’s what we do. It’s who we are.

My 17-year-old self wouldn’t understand that.

Now that I’m a mom, I do.