Operation Collaboration: Co-parenting for College
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Operation Collaboration: Co-parenting for College

I have heard so many parents say, “Once the kids are in high school it goes so fast.”

They are so right.

When I started out on my single-parenting journey, my oldest child was in third grade. Now she is chomping at the bit to start her senior year in high school. And, yes, it went so amazingly fast.

All kids rounding the corner toward the end of high school face some major decisions, and their parents tangle with sorting out all of the information they need to quickly assimilate into their vernacular. It’s a lot.

Co-parenting a teenager with plans for heading to college in a year requires a significant amount of proactive work on the part of both parents there’s any hope for things to run smoothly. Even with stellar intent, the road from now to then is bumpy and full of unmarked obstacles.

Financing College

If your divorce was anything like mine, finances serve as one of the toughest and most uncomfortable topics of conversation. Unless it’s spelled out in your decree, the amount each parent can or will contribute toward college might be the most important first step in supporting your teenager in making a huge and potentially long-term financial commitment.

In our case, we opened college savings accounts for our kids when they were born, so those have been growing for a while. Is it enough to fund four or five years in a private university near a ski resort? Probably not. Since my daughter wants to be near mountains and in a location with snow, she has to understand that comes with a heftier price tag than somewhere closer and more, well, flat.

As parents, we discussed sitting down together with our daughter and all of her college savings fund information so she can see exactly what she is working with. Now, this is not a carte blanche for college, but it highlights the concept of college as an investment in her adult life rather than a rite of passage. We agree that college is an investment in her future and not to be taken for granted, so reframing the concept of “college” for her is important. She can take out college loans, but we also want to show her how starting her adult life with the very real possibility that she will have six-figures in college loan debt may not be the way she wants to start out.

Finding the Right Fit

As my daughter and her friends are talking about colleges and visiting universities, I find that they are mostly focused on the reputation of the school and it’s location. The location factor is absolutely huge for my daughter, and she is dead set on going out of state. (See also financial discussion regarding out-of-state versus in-state tuition.)

She also knows generally what she wants to study, which isn’t as common a program as Business or Accounting. While we have completed some internet research on top schools with her course of study, not all of those are within reach for her. She’s a smart kid, but definitely not heading to MIT. So she is going to have to make a shift to looking at schools offering her major within her academic reach then consider location.

Team Co-parenting to College agrees that we have to have this conversation with her together because we have both had it with her separately and not gotten terribly far. Joining forces to show her we are committed to her long-term goals and how to achieve those is also part of The Conversation. Once we work together to generate a shortened list of schools that make sense, we need to make a plan to go check those out.

Other Possibilities

My daughter’s dad and I are both in the education profession, so we place a great deal of value in education. In looking at the many factors that come with co-parenting our daughter, we don’t know that she is really ready to handle all of the responsibilities and independence that come with moving away and jumping into rigorous learning while managing all new social opportunities and of course those mountains calling her name. College requires a great deal of responsibility, and we are not 100% sure she understands exactly what she’s in for.

We are on the same page with expectations for the most part when it comes to The Rules, and she is a very good kid. If her curfew is 11:30, she is in home asleep usually by 10:30. But she loses track of time, forgets appointments, and generally needs multiple reminders to follow through. This gets expensive and comes with larger consequences in college, and she does not realize that because she has never been there.

Part three of Operation College Collaborative Co-parenting includes laying down some expectations when it comes to being responsible and showing us on a consistent basis that she is ready to handle what’s coming her way. Her dad and I agreed on a list of actions we feel are things she is both capable and mature enough to handle and just doesn’t on a consistent basis. We want her to be successful, so raising the bar on our expectations of her choice to follow through and prioritize have-to’s over want-to’s needs to grow up a little bit. We can have this conversation and agree but the rubber has to meet the road at both houses, with the same expectations, and the same consequences.

Parenting is the hardest job I’ve ever had. It’s also the most rewarding and the most fun. Pulling it off with no one to tag in has made it more challenging. Working with my kids’ dad to ensure that we put their best interests first makes it infinitely easier, and particularly with this new territory. Deciding where to attend college is one of the biggest decisions my daughter will make in her 18 years, and we want her to know not only that we are on her team to support her, but also that we are committed to working with her to make the best decision for her.

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Teacherwithtude
Teacherwithtude 69 posts

Teacherwithtude - Thoughtful Creative, Single Mom-on-Rollerskates, Educator, What-if Kind of Thinker, Household Engineer, Wannabe Superhero...

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