All parents want the best for their children. Of course, the definition of what is best will change from family to family.
For many families, preparing their children for college is on the list of what is best. If you are in this category, you might be wondering “when do I start preparing my child for college?”
The answer is now. But the how may not be what you think. For children in K-8, college prep may not look like college prep. You do not need to be searching or touring universities. You should not be in SAT prep courses. These moves will bore or cause undue stress on your child.
But there are plenty of things you can do that will only benefit them, even if they decide college is not for them.
Teach Them to Take Responsibility
All students will receive a grade they do not like. And many students will give reasons beyond their control that that grade happened to them. Teaching kids of all ages that they are in control builds confidence and problem-solving skills.
When your child received a grade they do not like, ask these questions
What did you do or did not do that made this grade possible
What can you do next time to get a better grade
Who can you ask for help from to get a better grade in the future
Teach Them to Self Advocate
As a parent, protecting your child from harm is your primary goal but swooping into the rescue may not always be what is best for your child. Something they will need to do in high school and in college is to advocate for themselves when working with their teachers and others charged with their education.
When your child receives a grade or a mark or a comment that they disagree with, teach them the age-appropriate way to communicate this to their teacher. Ask your child to take the first step in starting the conversation. It is possible you will eventually have to intervene, but isn’t that the way it is sometimes in adulthood even. We handle our problems independently until we need help and then we ask.
This is most appropriate for children grades 4 and up. Younger students may not have all of the communication skills necessary, but for them, you can set an example of how this conversation should look when you communicate with the teacher.
Arming your child with the confidence and the know-how will help them in high school and college.
The older children get the more freedom they have with how to spend their time. This is a good thing. Free time is necessary for many reasons. It is good for our mental health and it is good to teach us time management.
As a parent, it is easy to want to help your children manage that free time by scheduling activities for them.
However, over-scheduling them or telling them what to do each minute of the day can be detrimental because that is not how the real world works.
Rather than micromanaging your children’s times, include them in the decision-making process.
As young as kindergarten, children can start making decisions about how they spend their time.
Ask your child something like the following
Today we have to read 1 book, practice the alphabet, play with your blocks, eat dinner and take a bath. We know dinner is at 6 pm and bath is always after dinner (you cannot let your kids completely run the day. There are always non-negotiables). Which of the activities left would you like to do now, which would you like to do before bath and which before bed. Giving them the option begins to give them a sense of time and the understanding that making a plan is critical.
Many of the skills students can learn to be successful in college can be learned at any age in age-appropriate ways. Here is an article from US News and World Report giving some other tips on what soft skills children need to hone in order to be successful.