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5 Steps Parents Can Take Before The Transition to College

5 Steps Parents Can Take Before The Transition to College

One minute they’re young and fragile and you’re rocking them to sleep, and the next they are ready and raring to flee the nest with as much excitement and vigor as they once had for Chuck-E-Cheese and unicorns. Life is fleeting, and nothing is more evident of this than when your child goes away to college.

For a lot of us, thoughts of having our child stay close to home for college, maybe even taking online courses so they don’t have to go far away, has crossed our minds. As parents, the role we really need to play is more supportive and less overbearing at this point. You can and should help your child be aware of all the options available to them by looking at a list of all the schools in your state or taking a college tour together, but in the end the decision needs to be their own. Once I realized that, I avoided my daughter wanting to strangle me for not allowing her the freedom she desired at this point in her life and I was able get the reassurance and comfort that she was ready and able to be on her own. Here are the five things I found necessary to prepare both of us for the transition ahead.

Managing Finances

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    I am a true believer that there should be a serious focus on finances and managing a good budget in the junior and senior years of high school. Generally, kids graduate high school with no knowledge of how to manage their funds on their own. Whether you are able to help your child out financially while they are in college or not, if they do not know how to stretch that money, I can almost guarantee there will be a call for more finances or they will decide to take out loans to supplement the help — and spend that carelessly as well.

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    We live in a digital age, and trying to get kids to do anything on pen and paper has proven to be difficult. When I was going over a budget with my daughter, we did find several great budget apps that she could download right to her phone so that she always had them at her disposal. They also allowed her to begin saving for the trips she wanted to take.

    I didn’t have to pester her about her money situation (as much) and she was able to take control of her own finances and take that road trip to Havasu Falls like she wanted. Win win.

    Tech Support

    You don’t have to be tech savvy to have experienced the heartbreaking realization that you just lost everything you were working on because the computer failed. The blue screen of death is the real deal and is, unfortunately, something that many college students have a story about.

    Imagine this: it’s finals week and you’re putting the finishing touches on a huge paper — when suddenly, the computer crashes…

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    Having a backup plan is always important. Purchasing not one but two external drives for your newly attending freshman is a huge step in avoiding the looming computer-crashing story. Not only does it help them to keep their computer fairly clear of unnecessary data so that it runs smoother and quicker, but it allows them to save work often so nothing gets lost in the shuffle.

    I say two externals because, as any parent knows, there is a good chance that our efforts to help with tech issues could be overlooked and used for other things. One external for schoolwork and the other for music and entertainment. A work and play set of external drives helped to keep my recent graduate organized and generally on task.

    Basic Life Skills

    From a very young age, I had my daughter help me sort laundry and do household chores. I allowed her to do her own shopping and make dinner once a week at home while in high school so I was confident in her abilities to fend for herself, but one day I got a call asking me how to put gas in her car. She was dead serious and I didn’t know whether to laugh at the idea of her standing there confused trying to pump gas in her car or be upset with myself for failing to show her such a simple task. In the end, we both got a good laugh out of it, but it was a good reminder before she was off to college about the need to revisit even the little things before they are off on their own.

    Whether we think our young adults are ready or not, double checking whether they are capable of basic life skills may sound silly, but it is very necessary. Do they know how to do their own laundry without shrinking everything or turning it another color? Can they cook decent meals for themselves? Do they know how to put gas in their car? These are all very valid questions that a lot of us never think to ask because we are the ones that take care of these aspects of their lives.

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    Heart to Heart

    It seems as though there is always a headline about young college student fatalities from drunk driving and assaults on college campuses — sexual and otherwise. Overlooking the very real possibility that something could happen, in my opinion, is irresponsible. A conversation about drinking and driving is one your child probably won’t enjoy but will appreciate.

    Talking to my daughter about safety and smart choices before she went off to college lifted a weight off my shoulders and, whether she admits it or not, she walked away more aware of herself and her potential circumstances. Even in this day and age, reaffirming to young ladies that it is okay to say no and that her body is not a barter system is necessary. Dinner and a movie doesn’t equate to owing anyone anything. You’re not a tease or a prude, you’re a strong young woman (or young man). For every 1,000 women on a college campus 35 are raped every year. These are very real numbers, so educating our sons and daughters about the facts is prudent.

    Having this conversation before my daughter left for college helped me to reign the stress in. Knowing that she understood kept me from the checking in with her as much as I probably would have otherwise.

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      Financial Aid

      The biggest source of stress for a lot of people when starting out in college is working out the financial aid information. For a lot of first year college students, the paperwork is extremely daunting. Set aside time to go over this with your child, either from home or with someone in the financial aid department at the university. This will not only take added stress off your child but it will give you an opportunity to speak with someone who can explain in detail the different kinds of loans available and how that process works.

      These five things made the transition from home to college living much easier on all of us. I felt more confident in her ability to take care of herself, which made me less of the overbearing, concerned, badgering mother I know I can be. We’re parents, we worry. It’s what we do. Being present without being pushy is what is most important, so that we don’t push so hard that we push them away.

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      Last Updated on April 11, 2019

      How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

      How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

      Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

      I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

      I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

      Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

      How Communication Skills Help Your Success

      Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

      Create a Positive Experience

      Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

      When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

      What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

      Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

      As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

      Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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      Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

      Help Leadership Skills

      It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

      Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

      As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

      Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

      If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

      Build Better Teams

      Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

      In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

      If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

      When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

      Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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      How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

      There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

      Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

      1. Listen

      Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

      Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

      People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

      Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

      Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

      2. Know Your Audience

      Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

      Here is a good way to think about it:

      Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

      You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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      3. Minimize

      I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

      He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

      Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

      State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

      The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

      4. Over Communicate

      So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

      What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

      Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

      Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

      Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

      There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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      5. Body Language

      The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

      When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

      In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

      When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

      Conclusion

      Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

      Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

      There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

      Now go communicate your way to success.

      More Resources About Effective Communication

      Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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