Your job as a parent is to prepare your child for living independently and have all the skills and qualities they need to make the transition to life away from the family home. But when the time comes for children to leave home to go to university, many parents feel unsure about how their teenager will cope.
When my daughter and son went to university we did a few things to ease the transition which can be a difficult time for both students and parents. Here are a few ideas to set your teenager up for a successful start
In preparation for University:
- Go to the open days and find out what the university is like
- Visit the halls of residence with your teenager or the place where they will live and familiarise them with the building, facilities and surroundings. We were lucky enough to be shown the room our daughter was allocated, which really helped her plan what she needed and picture herself in the room.
- Go for a walk and find the local shops. If you can stop for lunch at a sandwich bar or café.
- Help your child learn skills at home to be independent. Encourage them to do things at home like cooking, cleaning, laundry, shopping and ironing. Make sure they can cook a few simple meals and operate a washing machine
- Talk to your child about finances. Let them manage their own money at home for everything such as travel, clothes, eating out and going out. Talk about how much money they will have at University and help them work out how much money they will have each week and a list of all the things they will need to use their money for. Help them set up a bank account well ahead of time and encourage your child to build up some savings.
- A great present is a University Kit – a plastic box packed with stationery, batteries, spare pens, wrapping paper, post its, scissors, first aid kit, painkillers etc.
- Do an internet search for ‘list of things to bring to university’ you will get some great ideas to draw up a packing list for your teen. You may need bedding, kitchen items and bedroom accessories. (A washing-up brush with liquid in the handle is great for washing up your own things especially if there is a sink full of items to be washed)
- When you have your list go shopping together and buy anything you don’t already have. TK Maxx and Wilkinson’s (household store) are good if you are on a tight budget. Or find items on the internet.
- Get together some photos, posters or accessories to brighten the room as well as a nice duvet cover (the right size for the bed)
- Be prepared for your teen to feel apprehensive, particularly on the day or two before they leave. Reassure them that it will be strange at first but they will get used to it and will have a good time.
- When your child goes to university recognise that your child needs you to treat them as an adult and allow them to make their own choices (and sometimes mistakes) in life. Let them know you are always there to listen and for support and guidance but not for financial bail-outs or to sort out their problems for them. Don’t be a helicopter parent and help your child realise that they now need to be responsible for their own lives.
- Allow conversations to come up naturally, but chat about studying requirements, student support services, binge drinking, sex, drugs and staying safe.
- Get together some recipes in a book that your child enjoys. Make sure they have the ingredients (and experience) to cook some of them when you leave them at University.
- Stock up with a week’s worth of basic shopping if you can. As well as a good supply of healthy food students will be sharing drinks and snacks with their new friends so may want items such as tea, coffee, soft drinks, alcohol, biscuits, crisps, bread and even a supply of chocolates! A few quick meals will be useful too.
- Listen to your child’s fears and worries about going to university, but help them look at the positives too. Reassure them that you will be fine when they leave – it is a big concern for some students leaving home.
- Get everything ready to leave for university in good time. Have it all boxed up and ready to go well before you need to depart to avoid last-minute stress
On the day your child goes to University
- You may both feel a bit sad, but it is a very exciting day. Try to keep the atmosphere at home light and as stress-free as you can.
- Plan to arrive in good time and to take everything to your child’s bedroom. If you can, help them unpack and make their room look good, then leave quickly with a hug and kiss and assurance that they can still talk to you on the phone for advice, support and a listening ear.
- Be prepared for feeling upset when the time comes to say goodbye. If you can save your tears for the car.
- In the first few weeks let your child take the lead in contacting you. They will need some time to adjust, but agree a minimum level of contact before they leave and how they will contact you, such as texts, emails, Skype calls, phone calls or instant messaging)
- Hopefully, your teenager will make friends quickly and will enjoy the fresher’s week. Encourage them to join in, socialise lots and make new friends.
- If your child settles well congratulate yourself for preparing your child well for university life and living independently.