6 Conversations to Have With Your Kid by Age 18

6 Conversations to Have With Your Kid by Age 18

Experts give us the not-so-common chats to have before your birdie leaves your nest.


By Heather Chaet

Your baby is almost 18. You can’t believe it. Just yesterday she was finishing mashed peas in a high chair, and now she’s finishing AP Chemistry in high school.

As you think about what all she may face when she leaves your home to go off to college or start a new job, you may not know where to begin to help her cope with the new adult world. There is so much to tell her – everything from serious health and safety chats to advice on figuring out her passion to guidance on finding her soul mate.

Beyond those usual conversations, we asked parenting experts to weigh in on other not-so-common chats you may want to have with your 18-year-old before she waves goodbye to her childhood.

1. The Time Management Talk
Life after high school is unlike anything else your 18-year-old will have encountered. He’s in charge of his every minute, which can be liberating, but also a little overwhelming. Going over basic time management strategies and reminding him that how he spends his hours is his (and only his) responsibility is often an overlooked conversation.

“A college schedule is way different from high school,” says social worker Marcia Hanlon. “Explain to your child that it'll look like you will have lots of free time, but seeing it as ‘free’ will trap you. Quickly get into a habit of using that ‘free’ time wisely and productively.”

Specifically, remind them that time is their investment in whatever they are pursuing, explains educational and behavioral therapist Cara Day. “You get out of things what you put into them,” says Day.

More from P&G everyday: 6 Conversations to Have with Your Kid by Age 12

2. The Reputation Talk
For many 18-year-olds, college is the next step. When they arrive on campus, no one knows them. In those first months, almost every situation is one where they are making a first impression. Be sure kids are aware that what they do will follow them for the rest of their college lives (and even after graduation). “Be clear that how you act and treat people on campus, in class, and on the party scene will come back to you no matter what,” says Day. “The question is, will it be a positive or negative way? The degree of separation in the world at large is very small. Even if it is a large school, when you step onto a college campus, the degree of separation becomes miniscule. Students, faculty, and other university employees are connected in many ways.”

3. The (Third) Money Talk
You have already covered the basics of finances with your kids. Now, what they’ve learned will be put to the test. Unfortunately, this is also when many kids can get into money trouble. Go over the essentials of making a budget and sticking to it, as well as how to protect and safeguard their cash.

“Also, introduce the idea of using a credit card in the event of emergencies,” suggests parenting expert Jennifer Chung. But she advises that parents go over exactly what is allowed. “Kids can get bombarded with credit card applications once they leave home, so guide them in making the right kinds of choices when it comes to using credit and maintaining a good credit score,” says Chung.

4. The Making-Friends-and-Influencing-People Talk
After leaving home, your child will probably have to make new friends and build new relationships. “One of the most important factors in adjusting to a new environment is making connections with people and feeling like you belong,” says Hanlon. “In the first few weeks of the semester on a college campus, everyone wants to meet people and fit in. These early weeks provide the best opportunities to find a group of friends. If your child is shy, he may need to push himself to be a little more outgoing. On the other hand, if your child will talk to anyone, have him be cautious about those people who might be out to take advantage of him. Advise them to be open to new friends, but trust their instincts when someone gives them the creeps.”

Author and university teacher Melissa Hart suggests encouraging your child to get involved with groups and organizations as soon as possible, and research the options before the move to a new city or a new campus. “My students who feel most comfortable already have a good working knowledge, when they arrive on campus, about extracurricular opportunities that help them build a community,” says Hart.

More from P&G everyday : 6 Conversations to Have With Your Kid by Age 10

5. The Buddy System Talk
Be sure you talk about the importance of always having a buddy. “Kids can unknowingly put themselves at risk by not being aware of their surroundings,” explains Chung. “Advise them to have a buddy system when out at night. Always let someone know when they are planning to deviate from their standard schedule. Colleges have a notorious party atmosphere, so prepare your kids for the types of invitations they may encounter and how to navigate their new social environment wisely.”

6. The I’m-Always-Here-for-You Talk
“I’m just a phone call away” is perhaps the best thing you can tell your 18-year-old. It goes beyond lectures on studying and safety. “There is no way a parent could ever prepare a child for every single scenario, and I think even middle-aged adults would admit that they still turn to their parents for certain questions,” says psychologist and life coach Frank Bevacqua, PhD. “It is necessary that a parent conveys that, although the child may be going off to college, and this is a time to learn and practice independence, the parent will always be available. Parenting does not stop when a child reaches age 18.”

What is the hardest conversation you’ve had with your 18-year-old?


Heather Chaet documents her mini parenting successes, epic mommy fails, and everything in between for a plethora (love that word!) of publications and websites such as CafeMom, New York Family, and AdWeek. While her online persona is found at heatherchaet.com, Heather lives in New York City with her film director husband and one insanely curious, cat-obsessed daughter.

Image ©iStock.com/alexxx1981


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