The best adulting lessons parents can teach their university-student kids
Young woman with a backpack going to class

Even though your kids may be young adults in college or university, they’ll always be your babies. At this stage of their life, they’re not looking to be cuddled or told what to do; that said, passing on important lessons is still essential for parents. This is especially true since some of this fundamental knowledge will never be taught in school. Here are some of the best adulting lessons parents can teach their university-student kids.

Financial responsibility

Learning how to budget and manage your expenses is essential information that parents need to pass down. The concept is simple: as long as you’re spending less than you make, you won’t be in debt. That said, you also need to educate your kids about the importance of saving money for things such as a home, a car, or even a vacation. A simple way to get your kids involved early is to show them your current family budget so they get a clear idea of how things work.

Another concept you’ll want to teach your kids about is how credit cards work. When you use credit, you’re borrowing money. As long as you pay that money back, you’ll be in good standing. What some students don’t realize is that you need to pay the entire balance in full each month, or they’ll owe interest. Considering interest payments can be 20%+, they’ll want to ensure they pay the entire balance. Make it clear that any payment that’s less than the full amount means they’re in debt.

Relationships matter 

Coming out of high school, many students think they’ll have lifelong relationships. While that does happen, the reality is that people will come and go. That’s not a bad thing. It’s just important for your kids to understand that people change with time, so they may need to adapt too.

Having strong relationships with your friends and family is important. Ensure your kids understand that any relationship, including romantic ones, is a two-way street. Everyone involved in a relationship needs to be held accountable, and they need to respect boundaries. 

Learning never ends

It’s common for college and university students to see their studies as the end of the road. Once they graduate, they can focus on their careers and the next stage of their lives. Their formal education may be coming to an end, but they’ll always be learning. Encouraging them to have a continuous learning mindset will help them grow their interest and skills.

Instead of just telling them to study or learn more, show them what you’ve learned over the years. This could be something simple as how you planned the last family vacation or even something more complicated like the skills you acquired to change careers.

Time management and organization

While in school, many students are still on a set schedule. They’ll wake up, attend classes, and eat at roughly the same time every day. This is fine, but what they’ll quickly realize is that time management will become more important. Not only will they need to manage their studies, but students will often be more social. Finding time to accomplish everything may seem impossible at times.

As a parent, you can show kids what techniques you use to keep you on track. Having a to-do list is a simple time management strategy since it keeps you focused. Even blocking off time for personal care can have a significant impact on your well-being. It’s also sharing how goal-setting and long-term planning can have a positive impact on their lives.

Self-care and well-being

Once your kids graduate, the expectation is that they’ll get a job, work hard, and get promoted. Along the way, they might meet a partner, get married, have kids, and buy a home. While this may be the goal for some people, things don’t always go according to plan. It’s essential to let your kids know that focusing on self-care and well-being is just as important. 

Be sure to tell your kids that it’s okay to discuss their mental health. If they’re not comfortable doing it with their family or friends, there are professionals that can listen. You’ll also want to let them know to look out for signs of stress, such as mood swings, weight gain/loss, and fatigue. Sometimes, good self-care can be as simple as having a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and making healthy lifestyle choices.

The bottom line

When kids enter post-secondary school, they don’t want to be told what to do. That said, giving your children practical life advice can help them prepare for the years to come. Find a way that resonates with them, whether it’s by sharing your own experiences or providing them with relevant sources. The most important thing to let them know is that you’re there to listen regardless of what challenges may come.

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. As a completely self-taught, do-it-yourself investor with no formal training, he makes money easy to understand for all Canadians. His specialties include personal finance, budget travel, millennial money, credit cards, and trending destinations.

Barry Choi is a paid spokesperson of Sonnet Insurance.