Unlike other posts, this one is broader-based, geared to families with college bound kids. (There will be tips for those with Spectrum Kids.)
Senior year of high school was nothing like I pictured. There was no coasting with second semester classes. No stress free moments once the college acceptances were in and the deposit made. Pre-college jitters started before high school’s final bell rung and studying remained intense until the end.
But that’s my kid. Mom, here, was a bit more lax back in the day.
Although I was teary watching my daughter march down the aisle in cap, gown and tassel, knowing what lies before her made that solitary moment in June full and joyous. It has been a long 17 years, and now she is headed to college. And mom has a few more lessons to impart.
When I was in college, there wasn’t social media. Heck, was there even an Internet? My classmates and I have mentioned more than once how glad were are that so many memorable moments were caught via Kodak, staying hidden in shoe boxes and frilly scrapbook albums until the invention of the scanner, uploader and Facebook. As much as some things have changed since I was in college, much has stayed the same.
My daughter is a good kid. Dare I say a nerdette? (Personally, she would prefer to be known as “Berndette” from a favorite show. That’s close enough.) Even though she swears up and down alcohol will never touch her lips, we still sat down and had a chat. And I suggest, speaking mom to mom, you consider doing the same. As I mentioned to my daughter, what I share may not apply to her, but may apply to a friend or roommate, and she may be in a position to help her.
This post isn’t for the kiddos to read over your shoulder. It contains themes geared toward young adults. And it can be awkward. (But not as awkward as “that” talk, if you know what I mean. Oy, that talk. *sigh*. Fun times.) But it needs to be done.
It’s hard to say whether concerns on college campuses are increasing or if it’s rather our awareness of them.
Today I want to hit on five areas: Campus Safety (personal), Theft, Sexual Safety, Drinking and Drugs, and Heli-Mom. Think of these as talking points to get the conversation started. Each college should have easily accessible, detailed safety information on their websites.
Campus Safety (personal):
- Understand the blue lights: When my daughter went on campus tours, she always made a point of finding the “blue lights”. Look to see if your child’s campus has them. Ask if that is the quickest way to get help or if they need to consider another method.
- Walk in groups: This is as old as time. Do not walk alone at dark. (If your student goes to school in a city, this may even apply during daytime hours.)When I was on campus, which is pretty rural, things happened. ASD TIP – This can be hard for our independent ASD kids, but VERY important to get through to them.
- Do not walk around campus with your earbuds in or phone out, especially if you are walking by yourself. Ever heard of “Apple Picking”? ASD TIP – Here’s where to talk about our “Place in Space” again.
- Understand the school’s safety mechanisms. Is there a public safety officer patrol? Do they use the local police force? Do they have their own, private police force
- Expensive electronics are the norm on campus. Never leave a phone or a laptop unattended anywhere, and this includes the library. Some are stolen out of opportunity. Some are stolen out of competition for grades. Again, each campus will differ as some are more trusting than others. Always lock your dorm room and consider a dorm safe for valuables, including prescription medication.
- This is a hot button issue if there ever was one. Make sure your child knows where to get help and information. Again, even if this is something your child never experiences, her roommate might. Topics for discussion include: birth control, abstinence, local clinics, sexual predation, and date rape. Also make it a point to discuss alcohol and judgment.
- ASD TIP – I strongly encourage ASD parents to seek out resources that will help you talk with your student about sex and stalking. Many ASD young adults wind up in compromising situations due to difficulty in reading social cues and social situations. DO NOT let your ASD student go off to college without information tailored to them about dating and sex.
Drinking and Drugs:
- Each school will have its own policy. However, a “no-drinking” policy doesn’t mean there will never be drinking on campus. Talk to your student specifically about the effects of alcohol and what constitutes one drink, etc. Too many kids get alcohol poisoning . We need to take the blinders off and talk to our kids now before they hit campus. Again, if your child never drinks, she very well may be in a position to help another student who may need emergency care.
- Drugs are never a good idea. Something new to know is that some kids seek out kids with ADD/ADHD for their medication. If your child is on ADHD meds, seriously consider a dorm safe for these meds. And remind them never ever to sell or “loan” even one pill. Ever.
- There are books and blogs dedicated to discussing campus and student safety in depth. Introduce your student to these resources, teach her what you can, and then do the most difficult thing in your life. Step away.
- Sometimes the kids who get into the most trouble at school are the ones who have been pushed hard to excel to the point they have had minimal social time with friends while in high school. It’s not too late to back up a little and give your rising freshman some freedom and some space while still at home. Let her spread her wings a little now. She needs to know you will be there when she needs you at 1am with a call about laundry, guys or that grumpy professor.
- Talk about study habits, keeping a schedule for class, work, homework, etc. This is especially important for ASD and ADHD kids who need structure. They will need to create their own structure at school. After all, they are in college to learn, right?
For those interested, I have created a few “helps” that are available through my Etsy shop. They include dorm checklists for both girls and guys, and “Laundry Theory” for those who will need some help doing laundry on their own. They can be found HERE: Wave and Willow PDF Downloads.
Best wishes as you go on this new journey!
Julie Clark is the published author of “Asperger’s in Pink”, which you can buy here, and speaks professionally about Autism. She is also the creative force behind Julie Clark Art. Julie is happily married and has a beautiful daughter. She is currently working on her second novel.