Is your child planning to go do University? If so, congratulations! University is an incredible experience, but like any change it can be daunting - for your children and you as their parents or carers. But who am I kidding – they’re no longer children, and are already well on their way to becoming an adult – with everything that entails.
So how can I help? I’m a parent ambassador working with the University of Suffolk. Two of my kids have finished university, and one started this year. And all are still rational human beings who I’m immensely proud of. Here are a few things that I found useful. Hopefully you’ll find them useful too.
Before your young adult goes to university, help them prepare for the experience.
Managing their money
In the Charles Dickens book, David Copperfield said “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen, nineteen and six , result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery".
So talk to them about money. Get them to put together a basic budget – how much money will be coming in each term, and how much they need to spend on rent, food and books. Take them out shopping (Aldi – not Harrods), so they can get an idea of what things cost.
Looking after themselves
It may come as a shock to your child that when they go to university, the magic pixie that does their cooking and laundry hasn’t moved with them. They will have to cook and clean for themselves. So get them used to it before they go. It’s a good idea to do some cooking together, so they have a few basic recipes. Spag bol, chilli, curry, a decent dhal. These are all meals that can be made quickly and cheaply. So teach your child to make their favourites before they go. You can also show them what a washing machine does if they don’t already know.
This is important. Talk to your young person about what to expect at uni. The first couple of weeks are a transformational time. It’s when your child will make new friends, and start to feel they way into their new way of life. You can talk to them about enjoying themselves, but being sensible. They may feel homesick, and that’s perfectly natural and OK too.
It’s also a good time to prepare yourself. It can be heart-wrenching when you leave your young person at university for the first time. One technique I used to help me was perspective. Sixty years ago parents were saying goodbye to their young people as they were sent off to fight in the second world war. It was a hard fact that they might never see them again.
Your child going off to uni is hard – but you will see them again, and usually accompanied by a huge bag of dirty washing!
Going to University
The toughest thing I found was to give my young adults space. It’s difficult to resist phoning them every day to see how they are. I found it especially tough not to rush over to them as soon as they had a problem and sort it out for them. But solving day to day hiccups is all part of the growing up process. Sure, point them towards the help available at university, such as the Student Union or the University welfare services, and be there as a fall-back for them. But let them solve it themselves. It will help them to grow and become independent.
I’ve found it best to let them know that you’re at the end of a phone if they need you, and then just let them get on with it. Sure, if they haven’t called in a week or so give them a call, but they need a bit of space to grow into their new experience. Don’t be upset if they don’t call – they have a whole new way of life distracting them.
And lastly, be prepared for them to change. Your young person will quickly get used to their independence at uni, and it will seem strange to them when they get home and have to live by the family rules. So be prepared for a few arguments and sulks – it’s all part of the process.
One final thought. As I was writing this I was listening to Spotify – and Zoe Wees’ track “Control” came on. It’s a stunning song, so give it a listen if you can. It has the following lines…
“I need you to know I would never be this strong without you
You’ve seen how I’ve grown you took all my doubt
Cause you were home”
That’s the kind of parent I want to be.
So good luck for your family’s journey through University. I’m sure it will be an interesting ride, but you’ll do brilliantly!
Pete, Parent Ambassador
To see more from Pete and the Parent Ambassadors head over to the HE Family Zone on Facebook. If you have any questions you can email: firstname.lastname@example.org
To find out more about applying to the University of Suffolk through Clearing, visit www.uos.ac.uk/clearing or call us on 01473 338352.