3 Tips to help your high school senior this Summer

I had no idea how expensive life is.” – My son a few weeks after he left for college

If you have a high school senior there are a flurry of things happening in your home.  Assuming educational plans are in place then it is a mad dash to make sure your soon-to-launch young adult is ready.  Part 2 of this article will be to help pending empty nest parents get ready as well.

  1. Build an educational foundation around finances

High schoolers are generally not experienced handling their own finances.  When they leave the nest, they are going to be both financially semi-independent and resource poor.  They have observed how money works from movies, celebrities and their friends.  Many view money as an abstract concept that has no application to their life.  Up until now, if they needed money they would go to their parent.  Now, we are asking them to begin both finding their own resources and subsequently manage them responsibly.”

A great first step is to set up a weekly budget.  Keeping the time frame limited makes it easier to digest.  Perhaps a weekly transfer from a savings account to their checking for either debit card spending or cash withdrawals would work.  If they know how much to expect each week they might hold back when they are tempted by a $20 midnight pizza run.  Banking apps make this easier for the family to manage.

  1. Define who is going to pay for what – before they leave for school

They are looking for more freedom.  Having an understanding of where they need to spend their money can offer them another slice of responsibility.  Also, habits are being developed that can translate into their financial patterns as adults.  However, we all know what can happen if we set parameters and then let them slide.  I’ve always believed that we have to be flexible as parents and that mistakes can be educational.”

Freshman year is usually spent on-campus with an accompanying meal plan.  This means the University of My Kid is offering up three squares for your student.  At my school we had one choice on Wednesday’s – Beef Ole. Now, they have sushi bars and Kombucha. My point is that their nutritional needs can be met via the meal plan, if they so choose.  Extra snacks and meals out are a good entrée into the budgeting lifestyle.  Other items like transportation and clothes are something each family should negotiate.  The more of these items that are settled prior to launch will likely create a bit less stress for both parties.

  1. Discuss academic expectations

The tug of war between your student’s soon-to-be independent lifestyle and your desire to hang in will be front and center this summer.  Somewhere along the way you’ll likely have a chance to talk about the academic side of what is to come.  My first test as a college freshman helped me quickly realize that an additional “gear” was going to be needed.  This is a helpful message to send to your student.  If they are either used to a very hands-on experience in high school and/or their studies have come relatively easy it’s time to explain that they will be on their own, unless they seek help.

These experiences are vastly different between schools.  However, the impetus now sits on their shoulders to either make things better or let them gradually decay.  I did not do a good job of getting my children ready for this reality and it took some scrambling to get them back on track.  A frank discussion about how their grades will impact their professional future is vital.  Digging a hole as a freshman can make the subsequent years very stressful.

This will be an exciting spring and summer for your family.  The pending change might put everyone on edge.  Take some rest knowing that they’ll probably get through it and while it may not be immediate, a fun empty nest transition is waiting for parents as well.  More on that in our next post!

*Portions excerpted from Empty Nest Full Pockets by Matt Meline