Conversations You Need to Have With Your Son Before College

Conversations You Need to Have With Your Son Before College“Train a child up in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

Perhaps you are already looking, with mixed emotions, at the prospect of your son heading off to college. He’s becoming a man and preparing to leave home, yet your role as a parent is far from finished. As you start to release him to pursue his education and adult future, there are still some important lessons to be taught at home

Hopefully this isn’t your first time talking with your son about these matters. But even if it is, remember, it is better to have the conversation late than never. Don’t resort to sending him off and hoping for the best. Statistically, kids whose parents communicate their expectations to them prior to their first semester of college are less likely to engage in dangerous and illegal activities such as underage drinking, binge drinking, drug use and sexual misconduct.

If you’ve ever found yourself excusing your son’s bad behavior with the justification “boys will be boys,” you are conditioning your son to excuse any unwise, dangerous, ungentlemanly and even unlawful conduct with simple deference to his gender. Expect more from him and teach him to expect more of himself.

With wise guidance and involvement, it is indeed possible to lift our young men higher and instill in them not an apathetic descent to the lowest common denominator, but a desire to take the road less traveled—that of character and godliness. This is the perspective your son needs as he heads off to college.

Even if he’s currently a “good boy,” your son is going to be confronted with a mixed bag of peers once he arrives at college. The first weeks and months are spent trying to fit in and find one’s place in the mass. This is when many of the compromises start. Talking with your son early can help him to prepare for some of the challenges and pressures he will face when he steps onto the university campus.

Whether or not your son is headed to a Christian college or religiously affiliated school, and even if his adolescence was an alcohol-free period of sports, academics and youth group, Christian colleges and dry campuses are filled with drinkers and formerly trouble-free kids who often see college as a time to begin experimenting with everything from which they abstained throughout high school. You’re not off the hook.

Talk with your son about the importance of safety and moderation in drinking and encourage him, despite heavy peer pressure, to learn to set his own limits and stick to them.  While total abstinence from underage drinking is desirable, one also has to be realistic. Remind him that the “college experience” is about more than passing days and nights with cases of beer and the constant search for the next good time. These priorities will terminate the “college experience” that many students are so determined to have.

Encourage him to use this time to develop as a person, to explore his vocation, to deepen his faith, and to push the limits of his potential. College is an opportunity to develop meaningful relationships with other men and women through shared activities and interests—those that go beyond keg stands and casual sex.

With good guidance, your son can be a model for other men—a godly student, a man of faith, a friend and protector of his female peers and an adult who will be ready for a life of purpose and meaning in the world. Show him his potential and caution him to avoid the traps.

Communicate a picture of what it means to be a real man. Many college guys, eager to establish a sense of their adult self, will pursue sex as a means of achieving manhood. They want to stand next to their buddies in number of conquests. Again, the peer pressure pulls them away from their purpose. Internet porn and video games are other common traps for the college man—by it many are sucked in and depleted of their character and spirit, not to mention ambition and precious time. Help them see that there is more to life and more to this time than wasting away in front of a screen or trying to snare women.

Many college kids rise above the pressure and stay out of the trap, many see their faith and their character develop profoundly during these years. But many don’t. Having the conversations before college can help to ensure that your kids make good choices.

College kids, despite their legal age, are yet children, and though they may seem resistant to listen to parental guidance, they need your input. College is a time of playing adult dress-up. Though many will be out of the house and perhaps several states away, your job isn’t done yet. Start the conversation early and keep it going.