Ask your Dad

Thoughts From an
Empty-Nesting Professor

By Tennille Lasker-Scott

(from left) Qua, AJ and Tennille.

(from left) Qua, AJ and Tennille.

So as I grapple with the reality of living alone for the first time in over two decades, I am also facing sending another child to college. This should be easy, right? I mean, I didn’t break his older brother and he just graduated college. However, this time is definitely different. When my oldest son entered college, I was just starting my position as a professor, and over the past four years I have learned exactly what I should have taught him before he went into the world and what I wish every parent would teach their kid BEFORE they become my student. The following range from everyday care to necessary life lessons. 

Everyone (who is able) should teach their child: 

1. The importance of good hygiene—This new-found freedom of most freshmen often includes the liberty of showering when they feel like it. It often conflicts with … my nose. You probably feel this is unnecessary, that your child would NEVER attend a class, event or just go out in public without bathing or brushing their teeth … You would be wrong. 

2. How to clean/do laundry—Without fail, every year, I will be asked by at least a few to a dozen students how to remove a stain, why their “whites” are brown or pink, and undoubtedly I will get at least one student who will ask me where do they take their dirty clothes and will be completely astonished when informed that they are responsible for laundering their own clothes. Also, housekeeping is most likely for common areas, not private dorm rooms. Most universities do not offer private cleaning; teach them to clean up their own spaces. 

3. How to share—Some of us did a true disservice to our kids by not teaching them the importance of sharing ... and when to stop sharing. Sharing their space, time and even ideas seems to be a hard lesson to learn for so many students. 

4. The difference between “want” and “need”—This seems so simple, right? Wrong. You would never know how much anxiety you could save your child by teaching them the difference. A literal lesson I’ve had to teach: You want cupcakes. You need soap, toothpaste, paper, pencils … and textbooks. Cupcakes can wait until your needs are met.


5. Financial literacy—So often parents do not want to worry their children about their financial woes. But it’s important to prepare your child for the financial shifts of life. For so many kids, especially first-generation students, who receive financial aid or scholarships, this will be the first time they are responsible for a large sum of cash. Teach them how to manage their money! So many students mismanage their finances and spend more time worrying about how they’ll get through the remaining days of the semester rather than their examinations.

6. It’s OK to fail, it’s more important how you respond—After watching my son completely depressed after bombing a test in his middle school years and learning that his overall concern was that I would no longer believe he was smart or good, I vowed to teach both of my sons the importance of reacting to bad experiences, decisions, etc. It’s OK to not be perfect. Failure is reached only if you stop trying. Kids seem to dwell in their failure. We need to teach them how build on the missteps to achieve their wanted outcome.

7. Not everyone is their friend/will like them—It’s OK to not be adored by everyone, including your roommate and/or professors. It’s also OK to not like everyone. This simple notion will save your child, classmates, teachers, administrators, etc. many hours of discomfort and ill-feelings. 

8. Differences can be cool—Everyone does not have the same childhood, live in the same type of neighborhood, have the same family make-up, have the same financial resources or even equal education. Do not let those differences inspire separation, rather let them be a catalyst to expanding your own knowledge and experiences. 

9. Therapy is NOT shameful—Honestly, this is so important. I have so many students who are troubled by so many things that we didn’t have to deal with growing up. The ever-changing world and the easy access to … everything, via the internet, has produced a completely different experience for our children. Some need to talk about what they see and experience before it negatively impacts what they do. Some don’t feel comfortable talking to their parents. As a professor, I’ve directed many students to our Wellness Services, after they’ve confessed to heartbreaking experiences and their fear of being judged, not accepted, and shamed. Unburden your children!

Now, about this empty-nesting…


Tennille Lasker-Scott is a goofy, sports-loving, social activist who was blessed with two wonderful sons that she happily embarrasses on a continual basis. She currently resides in Arkansas and teaches at a state university. You can find her wherever good food and drinks are served.