1. Encourage a Self-Defense Class – This may be the most helpful summer enrichment class they will ever take. It’s a sad but true stat that the number of sexual assaults on college campuses is increasing exponentially. And, it’s not just girls getting assaulted, boys are also at risk.
As you recover from your child’s end of year activities and high school graduations or you’re bracing yourself for your child’s return from college for the summer, every parent I know is scrambling to impart at least some of their accumulated wisdom to their offspring. Parents are always asking me to talk to their kids about everything from sex, drugs and rock and roll to how to talk to roommates, eat right and get enough sleep, and oh yes, how to find time to study. This is the time tested advice I’ve given to parents and followed with my own son.
What’s even more shocking to parents is that 90% of the time, it’s not a stranger. These predators/attackers ARE known to the person! With only 12% of survivors reporting the assault, many kids aren’t aware that this is as prevalent as it is, and even less have any idea about how to both prevent a sexual and physical assault.
Here’s what I advise:
• Check with the college or university to see if they offer Self –Defense classes. • You might also consider R.A.D (Rape Aggression Defense) This a 3-day class available at over 1200 schools across the country and covers all aspects of self-defense. Click here to locate one in your state or province.
2. For kids who are resistant to taking a Self-Defense class – consider an on-line resource such as the Gracie Academy. They also offer in-person training and their video series is helpful to see how people can extricate themselves from various situations.
Here’s a video that demystifies the process. Your son or daughter can access it on their own time. (link:
Here’s what I advise:
• Discuss what-ifs and various scenarios
• Many times people will find themselves in situations that they never expected and find themselves “frozen” and unsure of what to do. By discussing the what-ifs, your son or daughter can consider how they might react
• Consider a script like this: “I just heard about a young woman who was in the library late at night and a classmate offered to walk her back to her dorm. On their way through the campus, he pushed her into some bushes, attacked and raped her. She was so confused that she wasn’t sure what to do and then never reported it.”
• What would you do if someone you just met made you feel uncomfortable?
• What would you do if you saw someone who was really drunk or high in a dangerous situation?
• How will you make sure that everyone in your group is safe when going out?
Then, it’s ok to give advice like this: “One tip I can give you is when you go out with friends, be sure to discuss and get an agreement before you go out that we are adopting the Navy Seal motto: We leave no one behind! That means that we can buddy up and make sure that our friends have fun and stay safe.
3. Discuss your family policy on information access – One of the most frustrating things I hear from parents is that once their child turns 18, they are considered an adult and have privacy rights. (Yes, I know, I know, there are many days when they don’t act like adults).
Every child is different. Some parents are well aware of their child’s physical or emotional challenges, others are not. Some kids are open and will to share and some are not. It’s best to have an open discussion BEFORE they head off to school about what you are both comfortable with sharing.
Even if you are paying tuition, fees, and expenses, you have absolutely NO rights to any academic or health information unless your child is gravely ill. This is a result of privacy laws, better known as FERPA, Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
which is nicely explained by the University of Michigan
Here’s what I advise:
• Ask the College or University about whether any Health Care Proxy, Health Care Durable Power of Attorney and/or Health Care Advanced Directive forms are available. These forms allow for parents to have some access to information and some rights to make decisions about their child’s physical health care issues while in college
• Every state is different and every college and University is different about what forms they have available
• If those forms are not available or they don’t cover what you need, you can also ask your child to sign a waiver that stipulates that they are providing permission for health care providers to give you medical information if they are injured or hurt
• Most kids will provide consent if they know it’s not carte blanche
• You can have them type something up, sign and date it and have it witnessed. Have them carry it in their wallet. I also recommend that they take a photo of and have it on their smartphone
• Here’s an example, which may or may not be legally binding, but can help in an emergency:
4. Get them used to using Public Transportation – Many suburban college freshmen has had easy access to a car and may not know how to navigate their way around their college town, nearby city or get home on their own. Now is the time to nudge them toward a lot more independence and problem-solving especially when it involves getting around on their own.
Here’s what I advise:
• If they need a bike, get a junker and get 2 locks
• Encourage them to get a bus and/or metro pass
• Walkthrough using their smartphones to find the bus/subway stops and routes to get from point A to point B
• Many kids feel trapped inside their campus, so knowing how to get out and explore on their own is a priceless life skill
• If your child is going to be flying from home to school, have them make their own reservations and arrange any necessary airport shuttle. There’s no substitute for real-world experience in managing how much $$ money it costs, time it takes and what’s involved.
• Consider giving them a travel budget and let them figure out how to make it work for the semester/quarter or year. If you’re using miles, give them a cap on the number that they can use
5. Practice Difficult Conversations – You may be having flashbacks to pre-school and kindergarten, when you and every teacher was repeating this phrase, “Use Your Words” and yet good communication is going to be the key to your child’s experience away from home.
Living in close quarters with a roommate or in a crowded dorm provides ample opportunities to figure out who you really are and what you’re comfortable with. Negotiating with roommates and friends on every topic imaginable as well as figuring out how to deal with professors, your child will need to be able to communicate effectively.
What I advise:
• Try using “what if’ scenarios to get your son or daughter thinking about what they would do if their roommate was a neat freak, too sloppy, dealing drugs, suicidal or just too friendly
• Remind them to listen to their instincts also known as gut feelings if something doesn’t seem right and they’re feeling pressured, ignored or uncomfortable
• Explore how would they communicate their needs?
• Direct them to available resources, such as their RA, housing office, counseling office, etc. if they can’t work things out on their own
I hope this has helped get some conversations started in your home. I know my son was rolling his eyes, before he left, but now, as a college grad, he put a lot of this to use.
What advice are you giving your child as they head off to college?