Wednesday, July 28, 2010

He's Ready to Fly!

Our son, Kyle will be leaving for his freshman year of college in about a month. I'm told this calls for emotional upset the likes of which I have yet to experience, though I suspect that for me, at least, it will rear its ugly head the week after he leaves, when I start my first week of school (always a stressful time, though exciting!)  In the meantime, I will admit to a lot of confusion on this "parenting adults" gig, with which I have no experience.
I know all about early childhood and adolescence, as a scholar, a teacher, and as a parent. I have more than 15 years working with adolescents with emotional-behavioral problems. I can solve all kinds of problems from babyhood through adolescence, but this next step in parenting (the right way, anyway) is foreign to me.  I understand the boundary issues part of it on an intellectual level, but the emotional level kind of throws me for a loop!

Every kid in my family left home the day they turned 18, becoming fully self-supported from day one. I have no frame of reference for being financially supported by one's parents in any shape or fashion. Mr.4444 and I each paid our own ways through college, working like dogs to make it through and to pay off our student loans. Today, though, I'm told by the folks in the college financial aid office that college costs have skyrocketed, but financial aid has not kept up.  Even working full-time, today's college students will struggle to pay for their educations, and the Department of Education feels that "it is a parent's responsibility to support their child all the way through his/her education."  We get that, and we will do what we can to help Kyle get the loans he needs (he's also earned four scholarships but those aren't enough), but there's a lot more to this than I realized.

I have no idea how let our bird fly out of the nest without immediately flying beneath him to make sure he's okay. I have a lot of questions...

When is the gravy train supposed to stop?  When are you supposed to say, "No" when they ask for money? How much money? What are you supposed to do if your kid runs out of money?  Are you supposed to shrug your shoulders and say, "Oh, well"?  If so, how in the world do you do that??  Where is the line between enabling and supporting? How do you know when you reached it?

Here's what we've agreed to do:

*Continue paying for Kyle's cellphone, car insurance and health insurance, and continue a monthly $100 allowance, until he graduates. (He'll be at U.W.G.B. for three years, then chiropractic college for three more.)
*Co-sign student loans.

Here's what I have no idea about:
*All the rest!

I'd love to hear the advice from parents/adults out there who've successfully navigated this stage of parenthood/adulthood. Please share what you've learned from your experience! Thanks.


  1. My kids worked part time through school and full time during semester breaks..whatever they put in their accounts I matched. I also gave them a credit card for emergencies and almost immediately had the discussion that concert tickets do not=emergency. I paid for 1/2 of their loans. I do expect to be treated well; by them; when I am old!
    I also made them go to school for the first 2 years close to home. I just did not do well with them far away.

  2. I wish I could help. My oldest is currently 13. However I read your post with much interest because this concerns me as well. I think you've opened my eyes to what I'll be thinking in about 5 years. I have four daughters. I feel so protective of them I can't imagine that fading. However I want them to be strong and self supportive. They need to learn how to take care of themselves and learn also that if you blow all your money on clothes, you might not be able to pay your electric bill, etc. Yet it's hard to imagine sitting back and watching it. I know I'd "want" to help. It's going to be hard. If you figure it out, let me know!

  3. I am sure you will all do just fine following your instincts. Each child is so different, each family so different, there is no set answer. We have 8 unique kids. Some have never asked us for money, some still ask at age 44. Just when we figure out new boundaries, they get changed for various reasons, then after a bit, we wean them again and find new boundaries. Each crisis has to be weighed on its own merits and you get to try to figure out where the enabling line is. I am not worried about you guys, so just enjoy the ride!

  4. My oldest is an upcoming senior in college this fall. We've done pretty much what you and Mr. Forz are proposing. Scholarships pay for tuition, we pay for her housing, insurance and phone. She works summers to build a nest egg for incidentals.

    Unless it's financial, any issues/drama that come up, we let her handle it on her own. Sometimes I want to hover, but have to have confidence in her and us that we've done our job as parents.

    In August she's taking her GRE with hopes to continue with a master's program after graduation. That's where I'm stumped. At what point does she take over care and feeding of her own education?

  5. Our daughter just finished her 2nd yr of Uni.The schooling is a bit different here, but this is what we did: She works part time, she lives at home. We pay 1/2 her car insurance, she pays her own phone,and helps put gas in the van when she can. She eats,sleeps and uses whatever we have here without cost.She has managed to pay for the last two years of school with almost no debt.We haven't been able to help at all with school costs. She has three yrs left,and is planning ahead to hopefully come out on top. When she flew to GreenBay last week, we covered the flight,to give her a break. We found it is not always a cut and dried plan...

  6. We paid our daughter's room/board, tuition and living expenses at UIowa. She is an incoming senior and will graduate a semester early. We believe that having her concentrate on studies has paid off in scholarships and recognition with her professors - including making potential employer contacts. She will be returing from a three month paid internship this summer to begin her career search as she finishes school. Its hard to see beyond her December 2010 graduation given the national economy so we are preparing for all possibilities.

  7. You know, I just had a discussion about this with a friend of mine... Not about a child's education, but her own education. I'm like you... I paid my own way through 4 years of college, and I have to admit I'm grateful because I took 4 year rather than 6 or 8 for a four year degree. I worked hard and learned the value of a dollar. I think financial advisors are GREAT, but how is it different today than when we were younger? Seriously? Inflation and the cost of living have increased over the years, but in fairly similar proportions to what we underwent years ago. We just didn't have educational planners like we do today... A whole new market to get a degree in. The point being, you are doing exactly what you should be! You are not "kicking him out," but you are supporting him. Kids today have NO IDEA how to "work" for what they get... Earning is a foreign concept. They are used to reaping the benefits of their parent's hard work. I think you are teaching your son a great foundation for EARNING his accomplishments through supporting him.

    Okay, off my soapbox... But just think about it. :)

  8. Preparing our only child for managing his own finances didn't begin at age 18. We've always incorporated age appropriate economics throughout his life, so this was just another lesson.

    As we wanted our son to concentrate on graduating from college so he'd be able to support himself, we paid for college expenses. The only things we didn't pay for were: entertainment expenses, car insurance and gas for his car. He had a part-time job as a soccer referee in which he could schedule work around his school schedule to pay for his incidental expenses.

    It took five years, but he made it! He had multiple job offers before graduation day and had accepted a job prior to graduation. He's been self-supporting since then. We do give him nice monetary gifts at the appropriate times during the year, but other than that, his decisions, right or wrong are his own.

    I'm happy to say, that at 28 years old, he's doing well. He manages his money well and sets financial goals as well as personal goals to help him plan for the future.

    Lastly, I'd say that providing a good model for your child is important too. You can't expect them to manage money successfully if they've seen you overuse a credit card and get into debt.

  9. I think it's kind of gradual and there's a whole lot of gray area. The next year will be a lot of trial and error and testing boundaries and it will be more YOU testing those boundaries than him. By next summer you're going to be a whole different parent. You'll be ready to strap on that boot to kick him out of the nest. Savor this time, this before he goes away time. Nothing is the same after that. I wish I could paint you a picture but what's coming is so different for each of us. And if I told you what was on the other side I would be lacking, my words would sound negative. It doesn't sound pretty at all, but really it's quite beautiful and wonderful.

    Parenting isn't just raising infants into adults. All of that time is also preparing you to answer all of those questions you asked. You WILL know when and how much and if you're enabling or if you should reach out. Your gut, the one that told you when the five year old was lying about the cookie crumbs on the floor, that is what will guide you. You and Kyle are both much more prepared for college than either of you realize.

  10. I firmly believe that if a college student pays for his/her education that they take it much more seriously than mom and dad forkin' over the cash. I think your plan is a good sound plan.....the'll come to you as you go.

    Have a great day my friend!!!

  11. I am unable to give you any advice from a parent's point of view but I will tell you what my parents did when I was in college. I had a fairly decent scholarship for my heart so that paid the majority of my tuition and fees (I'm not sure if I could have gone to college without that help). The first year when I lived in the dorm I didn't work my first semester but picked up a part time job every semester after that and worked full time in the summers. My parents split book costs with me and would send me $200 a month (once I moved out of the dorm) to help with my rent and they continued to pay my car and health insurance. I never felt comfortable asking them for money (I knew they were strapped as well) so I covered the rest.

    I have a feeling that Kyle will not be the type of kid to constantly pester you for more funds. He sounds very responsible for his age.

  12. I do have to say that we knew Kyle wouldn't get any free money, but we did assume that he would be offered enough loans to cover the difference between college costs and his scholarships. We were wrong. This has been the biggest surprise for us. Thankfully, he is a hard worker and is smart, so he should be okay. Thanks for the advice and reassurance, Everybody! This was helpful.

  13. It's absolutely insane how much college costs are these days! I'm completely freaked out about this and my son is only 13. I feel like I'm running out of time already!

    Just take it day by day...little by little and before you know will all fall into place somehow:)

  14. As you wrote in the post and between the lines (I think) there many issues and decisions that come along with this. Overall, the student needs to be responsible for most of the decisions. Even though helicopter parents mean well, they really cripple their kids growth.
    I could go on with advice and maybe a little rant but it's too long for a comment. Bottom line 5 kids - 5 different stories - we are all different which is good.

  15. Yes, I think your plan is a great one and you will figure it out as you go.

    My oldest is going to be 18 this year, in December and he will not be going to college, but rather in the Military or Coast Guard. I don't have a plan as of yet, what I will/can pay for, so we will figure it out as we go.

    Now my oldest daughter is 15 and she is going to college, so we are trying to figure that out now.

    Good luck! :)

  16. One thing I WISH I had known how to do as a college student was to budget. I wish someone had sat me down and helped me set up a monthly budget so I could see exactly how much money I had coming in, and exactly how much money I had going out towards my expenses. It really would have saved me a lot of stress and anxiety and caused me to be more disciplined with my money. So, if Kyle doesn't have a budget, I'd suggest you and Mr. 4444 sitting down with him and helping him figure one out. Best of luck to you, Momma Bird!

  17. Hey this post got me thinking which can be dangerous and I gave you a shout out.

  18. We're in the midst of the oldest in college for about 1 1/2 more years, and the middle just starting. The oldest lost his "Lottery scholarship" after the first year, which (along with the teacher discount state employees get if their child goes to a state school) paid for tuition. He had a loan to pay for housing and we had some savings bonds for books. Now, he has his loan, and he works to pay for 1/2 of his rent (we pay the other half), his food (although we help out when we go up or when he comes home), his fraternity dues, and other extras. He does call his dad every now and then for extra money. Middle son has the lottery scholarship (we learned the hard way: if he messes up his first semester, he'll be home & going to a community college---we can't afford for him to lose the lottery scholarship) and the teacher discount, BUT, he's going to a more expensive school. He'll also have a loan, and will have to work for extra things.
    I was very fortunate in that my parents were able to pay for my education. I wish we could do that for my boys so they could just concentrate on getting good grades and getting out on time, but we just can't.
    Oh, and we do pay for car insurance and MS' cell phone. Their uncle (who doesn't have kids) is paying for OS' cell.
    It is a very tough decision, trying to decide what to pay for and what to have them take responsibility for. Husband left home when he was 17 to go to USMA, and the military paid for his college, so he thinks the boys should help out as much as they can.
    It's tough, for sure.

  19. I'm too focused on this subject.
    A recent comment on my blog triggered an idea I should have put in the post --
    Tell your child that you wouldn't want to deprive them of the opportunity to someday say that they worked they own way through school.

  20. This is such a hard issue, and to be honest I'm glad I've got 14 more years to think about it! Not much advice to give other than I hope it just works out how it needs to work out!

  21. My first stint at college my parents paid the tuition and room and board at the out of state college they chose for me. After I flunked out in less than a year I stayed out of state for two more years and worked and paid my own way.

    When I decided to come home, they bought me a car so I could do that and I came home and lived with them for a year. I went to a local school this time, getting student loans and paying for them all by myself. I didn't graduate but I had a 3.98 GPA after 3+ years. My second try at school was much better. My parents paid for my car and that was pretty much it after that - I was 21 by this time.

    As a side note, my folks always paid for the plane flights home for me and that still is a perk that my mom gives me every now and again. Thanks MOM!! :)

    My sisters and I all had different financial relationships with my parents. Some got more help and some got less - it really depended on the kid and the circumstances.

    I could have really ruined it for my sisters by failing that first year of college, but my parents didn't do that. I'm so very grateful for that. My middle sister was much more responsible when it came to schooling :)

  22. I'm just now reading your post after returning from vacation all week.

    In my day, back in the mid 70's, college costs were nothing like they are now. When we received the bill of about $1600 a year, we simply paid it. My parents and I split the bill. They would give me cash from time-to-time for spending money.

    When my oldest daughter entered college in the mid 90's, it was almost $10,000 a year. Her scholarship money was minimal. We took out what at that time was known as a "parent plus" loan for a small portion of the total. She applied for and received a loan for the balance, the much larger portion. It took us about 15 years just to pay off our small portion, and she is still paying her balance despite having graduated 11 years ago. While she was in college, we helped her buy a car but she worked during summers and breaks, and was responsible for the insurance and gas. We gave her cash from time-to-time during college for this and that, and helped with buying books and non-tuition costs. They didn't have cell phones back then either.

    College tuition and housing costs nowadays are astronomical. Unless parents are wealthy or have some other means of helping out, and without a healthy scholarship, it's the student who now bears the financial burden. Parents can help out here and there, as you are doing, but the students will have to finance the education through loans.

    P.S. Been there, done that with a child leaving home. You always think about them, worry about them, sometimes call them.....but you have to let them learn independence. It's tough, but you'll get through it. Kyle's got a good foundation and a good head on his shoulders. Hang in there mom.

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