Essential Tips for Parents of University Students
So, the time has finally come – your child is fleeing the nest to start their new life at university.
As a parent you are bound to have mixed feelings – whilst you are undoubtedly proud of your child, it’s understandable that you might be worried about them being away from home for the first time.
For young adults, university can be the first time they experience true independence, so however much you may be tempted to hover on the side-lines, it’s important to let them make their own journey. Although there is no harm in some gentle encouragement along the way.
So, what exactly can you do to help prepare them for their new life away from home?
Teach them to cook…
Fresher’s week can be a bit of a whirlwind of meeting new people and social events, so it’s forgivable if your teenager lives off takeaways and convenience food for a week or two while things settle down. But knowing how to rustle up a few simple, budget friendly recipes can help to make things a little bit easier (and cheaper) as the term draws on.
Whilst you still have them at home, get them to help you out in the kitchen and make sure that they know the basics, and don’t let them leave home without arming them with a couple of good recipe books. There are also thousands of simple and tasty recipes available online which can be put together in a matter of minutes.
…and do their own laundry
If you want to conjure up an image of the stereotypical lazy student, it’d be one who arrives home each term with an industrial size bag full of their dirty laundry – expecting their parents to do it for them.
Whilst you’ve still got them at home, try and encourage your teenager to do their own washing, so that they’re confident enough to do it once they’ve moved out. Visits back home are precious, so you don’t want to be spending the whole time sorting their load.
Also, make sure that they have access to a good iron and that they know how to use it properly- a crumpled shirt is not a good look on anyone!
Talk about money…
One of the biggest challenges for any university student is learning to manage their own finances. Whilst it’s fine to offer services from the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’ occasionally, ultimately your teenager should learn the value of money and how to support themselves.
Before they go, sit down together and discuss potential living expenses, what income they’ll be getting (whether this is from student loans or a part-time job) and ways of budgeting to help get them through the year. It will also be useful to research student bank accounts that offer interest-free overdrafts, but before they sign up for one make sure they are aware about the realities of debt.
…and the importance of safety
As a parent, you’ve probably had this talk with them many a time, but it’s probably a subject you’ll want to tackle again before they leave for university. Your teenager may cringe when you talk to them about safe sex, not getting into cars with a drunk driver or not to walk home unaccompanied, but hopefully a few gentle reminders will make them think about things a little more.
The truth is, once they’re no longer under your roof you can’t possibly know what they are up to, so having a trusting relationship will go a long way to making you feel reassured. And don't forget that there is also plenty of support available at university should they need it.
Offer your (silent) support…
The first few weeks can be hectic, and it can take new students a while to settle into a routine, so it’s important to try and give them the space to do so. Some teenagers may need a little more reassurance than others, so let them know that you are there for them if they need you, but try to resist checking in on them constantly.
Of course, you may worry if you don’t hear from them for weeks on end, but a weekly call on a set day might not always be realistic. So try to have some flexibility between you and just ask them to check in with you every once in a while.
…and enjoy your newfound freedom!
Finally, university is not just a new chapter in your child's life, but it’s also an opportunity for you to enjoy some more time to yourself. Whether that’s taking up a new hobby, or just enjoying the peace and quiet at home!