Preparing children for college requires more than helping them get good grades and financial aid. The most important preparation a parent can give a child is the tools they need to think and communicate effectively. It’s never too soon to start teaching these valuable life lessons.

Recently, while visiting a university campus, I caught up with Jazmin, a freshman who is living on her own for the first time ever.

In 2011 I visited Jazmin and her family for a few days to teach them the principles and skills of self-government. At age fifteen, Jazmin was a little reluctant to learn new communication skills, but she soon learned to govern herself, and by so doing, improved the relationships with all her family members.

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When Jazmin started university life at age eighteen, she had the normal struggles that young adults have. She had to learn how to have patience with roommates, and herself, while she adapted to the rigors of college life.

While talking with Jazmin, she mentioned that she got really frustrated at one point during the beginning of her new experience. She saw many problems and didn’t know how to solve them. While trying to figure out how to handle her new decisions, and problem solve the frustrating parts of her new life, she remembered a skill that would help her problem solve more confidently; SODAS.

She needed more information to create a clear picture of the decisions before her. Jazmin incorporated SODAS into her life again.

SODAS is a problem solving exercise that I learned while doing foster care years ago. It is an acronym for Situation, Options, Disadvantages, Advantages, and Solution. SODAS exercises put typical pros and cons lists to shame.

Jazmin said, “Nicholeen I have to thank you for teaching me SODAS. They changed everything for me at college. I was having some problems making decisions until I remembered to use the SODAS problem solving exercises you taught me. Now things are so much better.”

Throughout our conversation, Jazmin also talked about how important it was for her to apply some of the self-government relationship skills she had mastered also. Skills, such as disagreeing appropriately, became really useful with classmates, roommates, and teachers, and keeping her personal standards and family standards required accepting no answers and following instructions.

After our short conversation, it was clear to me that the skill she uses more than any other is accepting consequences. She knows she must accept the positive and negative consequences of her actions. There is no one else to blame for her failures or successes. Sure, other people can create drama or encourage frustration, but she is ultimately the authority in her own life. She sees herself being able to choose happiness, responsibility, and success, or sadness, drama, and frustration. Of course she chooses happiness and success.

Preparing your child for college starts when they are young. The sooner they learn self-government, skills like how to accept a no answer, how to follow instructions, how to disagree appropriately, how to accept consequences and how to problem solve any situation, the happier and more successful they will be when they are stepping into adult life.

Take heart, if your child is in their teen years, it is not too late. Jazmin didn’t start learning self-government until she was fifteen years old. She wasn’t perfect at first, but after a short time she freed herself from having to be controlled by any emotion or person for the rest of her life, and she found respect for parents as well as a desire for personal responsibility. She is in control of herself and she is ready for good relationships and college success.

If you want to see a video of Nicholeen teaching Jazmin and her family self-government click here.