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For many parents, the biggest stressor of our kids going to college is paying for it. There are others such as, “How will they stay safe?” and “Will they adjust OK?”. But the finances are, typically, the bulk of the concern. Like you, I started a college savings account (a great idea, by the way) when my daughter was born. 20 years later, I now have two kids, one in college and one going in 2018. As time was progressing, I was watching my account grow and thinking, “Why is everyone worrying so much?” “This is going to be just fine.” Until, I started watching the cost of tuitions EVERYWHERE increase at a dramatic rate. Then, I joined everyone else in worrying.

I remember when my oldest was an infant and complaining how much everything costed from diapers to formula to clothes, etc. It felt overwhelming. Around that same time, a friend noticed how tense I was and told me that “Somehow, everything seems to get paid eventually.” This actually calmed me down because to date, this has been true. Somehow, some way, things got paid. There is some debt here, some savings there, but the bills that came in when my kids were smaller are no longer bills that I owe. Maybe you can relate.

We all know how stressed we get when dealing with finances. The emotional reaction can make these situations worse. But, excluding a mortgage, have all of the bills from several years ago been paid? Is the debt you are incurring more recent and not from 2012? If so, allow yourself to breathe and realize that the bills of college will somehow, some way, get paid. The debt may last longer, but the plan that had worked before, will likely work again. If you are unsure, talk with people who have been through this and find out what they did to gain some control over that debt.

These are some of the things that I did that have worked thus far.

  • Seek out people who problem solve rather than those who will complain. Seek out people who focus on how to get out of debt rather than those who focus on ONLY the debt.
  • Make a plan and follow it as closely as possible. You may have to deviate from time to time, but stay as rigid as you can.
  • Learn early on who gives scholarships and discuss with your child the importance of these.
  • Come to terms with the reality that this is just going to be a trying time. It is important to remember that you have gotten through trying times before.
Sometimes, the psychology of finances can be as stressful and stress relieving as the psychology of your childhood, your relationships, etc. Getting help and talking to others in these types of situations can be the key component(s) needed to allow your stress to be managed. The last bullet point addresses this. If you can come to an acceptance of what is ahead (by yourself or with the help of others), the likelihood of dealing with it more mindfully dramatically improves. Please feel free to email me at the address below if there are any further questions that could be discussed. Remember that you are not alone.  

Michael J. Pollak, PCC, LICDC
Director, Dual Diagnosis Program

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The Behavioral Wellness Group is a counseling center providing therapy and behavioral health services and assessment including chemical dependency/drug addiction treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and other therapies. We also provide mental health or psychological assessments, and psychological,educational and bariatric testing. Providing services to the following communities in Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga and Lake County: Cleveland, Ashtabula, Beachwood, Chardon, Concord, Eastlake, Euclid, Fairport, Geneva, Grand River, Highland Heights, Kirtland, Leroy, Lyndhurst, Madison, Mayfield, Mayfield Heights, Painesville, Pepper Pike, Perry, Russell, Solon, South Euclid, Thompson, Wickliffe, Willoughby, Willoughby Hills, and Willowick, from our offices in Mentor, Ohio.