The school year is now at least a few weeks old for the vast majority of colleges across the country, though some on the quarter system may just be getting started this week or next.

If your child is still in secondary school, you’ve probably remarked to each other how difficult it is, with today’s busy lifestyles, for him or her to actually find time to study.

But study time is critical, and it gets even more important when the young adults in your household go off to college.

When Johnny or Susie is away at school, it will be much more difficult for you to install a time-management system and, frankly, it is not up to you to install a “system” for him or her anyway. After all, part of the growing-up process for your child includes the ability to develop time-management methods and study tactics that work. And your role is simply to play coach from afar, not to dictate from over the shoulder of your son or daughter.

One of the best ways to play coach is to be aware of the playing field. That includes developing realistic expectation of the ways that your young adult may have been spending his or her time in the school year so far.

It is a pretty good bet that he or she has probably found that college offers much more than studying. It’s also a pretty good bet that finding time to hit the books may be the most challenging test that a college student faces.

If you have a conversation with your college student in the coming few days, you may learn that last weekend, for instance, was a “lost weekend” when it comes to studying. Maybe there was a Friday social event that went into the wee hours, or a Saturday football game extravaganza, or a trip to visit friends from home at a nearby school. Whatever the reason, your son or daughter might very say to you, “I can’t believe how far behind I am getting with my homework; I didn’t get a thing done for three days in a row.”

While the sharing of this news might be frustrating to you, please resist the temptation to say “Your father and I are spending tens of thousands of dollars on your school, and I don’t want to hear about you wasting time like that ever again. Get to work.”

You may have those thoughts, of course, but just ranting is not going to make the issue better. You need to realize that, at one time or another, every college student will get behind in his or her work, no matter how diligent the person.

Think back to your own college or high school studying experiences. In my case, I recall that a certain bragging right came to the student with the most work to do and least time to complete it, especially if that student somehow was able to rise to the occasion and get the job done.

My main point is this: you need to put yourself in your son or daughter’s shoes ( or flip-flops, the case may be). He or she doesn’t want, and probably won’t benefit from, your lecturing. But he or she could really benefit from your pragmatic suggestions on ways to deal with time-management problems.

So with that in mind, here are four suggestions:

  1. Tell your child that managing time is a challenge that everybody faces at every stage of life. Encourage him or her to go for an all-nighter and see if it works. For some students, it is the only way to catch up on assignments. For others, it is a total waste of time. Your child will probably learn from the first all-nighter where he or she falls on the scale.
  2. Inform your child that a developing a plan can help immensely when tasks seem overwhelming. He or she may have scoffed at your to-do lists on the refrigerator when growing up. Share a laugh about those lists, and make the point that developing such a list can come in handy for setting study priorities.
  3. Explain the upside – and the downside – of caffeine. Most of us have experienced the rush that a 4 AM cup of coffee, with candy bar on the side, can provide. But we’ve also experienced the crash on the backside too. Caution your son or daughter that too much caffeine or sugar can cause the jitters.
  4. Tell yourself not to stress out over the fact that these time-management issues may have come to the surface so quickly in the new school year. Most students find themselves overwhelmed at one point or another, and your son or daughter is unlikely to be an exception. The worst thing you can do is stress out yourself. Get a good night’s sleep, and suggest that your son or daughter do the same. Things will look always look brighter in the morning.

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