Preparing Kids for Financial Responsibility in College

Summer is almost over. I can hardly believe how fast it has gone. With the beginning of school in sight, I tend to think about new starts. There is something innately satisfying about new starts. They are filled with hope–everything seems possible. Behind that hope though are new expectations. In my experience, I have found that one of the keys to peaceful transitions in life is being able to manage expectations.  When expectations are met, transitions are relatively easy; when expectations are missed, transitions can be very painful indeed.

Years ago, I worked with a man who remains, to this day, a foremost Christian business consultant.  He taught me the phrase “coping gap,” which he defined as the difference between expectation and reality.  The greater the difference between expectation and reality, the more difficult the transition to the “new normal” will be. 

This coping gap idea is so relevant for parenting children who are about to enter a new phase of independence, like college.  I would challenge you to think long and hard about several layers of expectations:

1) What is your expectation for how much money they will receive from you?  What is their expectation?

2) What is your expectation of the grades they will aim to achieve?  What is their expectation about that same GPA?

3) What is your expectation of whether they will have a job while in college?  What is their expectation?

4) What is your expectation about how much they will communicate with you while they are away?  What is their expectation?

5) ETC… You get the picture!

Training children for financial independence is a process, not a one-time event. Even if you have been training all along, all that training could be eclipsed by frustrating emotions if you and your child have too large of a “coping gap” when it comes to their next phase of independence.  If you have a high school or college graduate in your home, take some time this summer to share about your expectations for the future and to hear what they expect, as well.  You will be so glad you had the conversation, and you will provide a much easier pathway for transition if you do!