Life lessons to share when your student is home for break

Much of what students learn during the college years happens outside the classroom. I gained some of my most valuable life skills at home over breaks with my parents. Your student may not think to ask for help with these skills, but chances are somewhere down the line he’ll wish he had.

Car care

Whether she has a car or not, knowing a few car care basics can help your daughter through her own personal tight spot or let her be the hero in someone else’s. Make sure she knows how to safely jump a car, change a tire and change the oil. If you’re from warmer climates and she’s at school where the winters are snowy, help her find someone to teach her how to drive in snow. Explain what her car insurance will and will not cover, and how to contact the insurance company. While she may still call you in the event of car trouble, she’ll be more confident that she can handle it on her own — a flat tire will be a minor delay instead of a major trauma.

Making meals

No matter how many meal options your son’s dining hall has, there will come a day when cafeteria food just won’t cut it. Invite your son to help you cook a couple of his favorite meals over break, and send him back to school with a shopping list and recipes. After a semester of eating every meal in the dorms, my friends and I started a tradition of “Family Dinner” once a week. Cooking together was fun, we got to know about each other’s traditions, and it was cheaper than going to a restaurant or ordering pizza.

Rest should be your student’s top spring break priority — the rest of the semester will be intense.

Financial facts and figures

I had summer jobs during high school and from an early age learned to save. However, college is an entirely different experience in terms of budgeting and using money. Sit down with your student and explain what her credit score is and how she can check it and keep a good rating. Go to the bank together. Help her apply for a credit card if she doesn’t already have one, and discuss how to use it responsibly. Let her sit in as you plan the family budget. If she’s required to file an income tax form, help her with this or show her your own forms as an example of how it all works. Financial aid renewal forms are also due in the spring. It’s much easier to do this together in person than to try to puzzle it out over the phone.

You may not be able to help your student with her economics or calculus class but you still have lots to teach! These useful life skills become more tools in your student’s tool box. He’ll be better prepared to handle whatever life sends his way, and you’ll both have happy memories of spending time together over break.