Preparing Your Child for the Transition to University

The new school year is almost upon us, and for parents of older teens, that may mean it’s time to watch them fly the nest and help them settling in to their university dorm rooms. Most teens will be excited (and secretly daunted) by the process, whilst sending your child to university is a massive milestone for parents. It’s natural to struggle to let them go, and can be difficult to accept that your role in their lives is changing. But, in the next few weeks, you can help to make this transition a little easier for them.

From teaching them how to wash their own socks to decorating their dorm room with their favorite pusheen toys here are our top tips for preparing your child for the transition to university:

Encourage Independent Living

Don’t send your child into the world without any preparation; it’s a recipe for disaster! In the weeks and months before they leave the home, try to teach them the life kills they will need to live independently, and encourage them to use them. This means learning how to use the washing machine, iron a shirt, and cook a few basic dishes. Reinforcing messages they should have learnt long ago, such as how to wash up after themselves and keep their room relatively clean and tidy, is also important.

During their last month at home, why not hand over the domestic reins to your teen at least one day a week? Take a step back and let them cook dinner for the family, put on a load of laundry, and clean up after themselves too. This will make the transition to university, where there will be no one to remind them to wash their pots or clean their room, much smoother. After all, it’s much easier to make friends and fit in if you’re pulling your weight with the essential chores!

Talk About Staying in Touch

Your expectations of how much contact you should have for your child and their expectations of how much they should be in touch are likely to be very different. To avoid any worry or resentment, this is something you should sit down and have a conversation about before they leave the family nest. It is unrealistic to expect your child to call you everyday, but equally they are not going away in the 1960s, when they would need 10p for a phone box and a book of stamps to stay in touch! Why not find a compromise? A call where you actually hear their voice once a week, and a text to check in every couple of days would be reasonable, and won’t take too much effort on their part.

Your child might also want to lay down some ground rules about your contacting them too: texts should always be OK, but phone calls during lectures or a night out in the Student Union Bar probably won’t be. Respect these boundaries: remember that it’s normal for your child to pull away from you at this stage but keeping the lines of communication open will make it easy for them to come back to you when they’re ready.

One great way of staying in touch that your child is sure to appreciate is sending regular care packages. Pop in some of their favourite snacks and treats, a fun gift (such as a winter scarf, Pusheen toys, or any other collectibles they enjoy) and a letter packed with news at home. This is the kind of low-level contact they will remember fondly for years.

Encourage New Friendships

One of the aspects of moving to university your child is likely to find most daunting is making new friends. Remind them that everyone living in their dorm or on their course is likely to feel the same way: they will all want to make next friends, which means that they have a captive audience and it should be easier than they expect.

It’s normal for them to feel lonely in those first few weeks at university, and their instinct may be to cut and run: return to the comfort of the family home and their old friends every weekend. As much as you might want this (and it’s understandable that you’re missing them too) your role as their parent should be to encourage them to stay put. If they come home each weekend then they will miss out of vital social events, parties, and opportunities to bond with their new friends. There will be plenty of opportunities for them to catch up with friends, and you, during the holidays. And modern technology means there are so many different ways they can stay in contact with their old school friends without ever having to leave their dorm room!

Set Up Safety Rules

Whilst they might, technically, be grown-up, the child you send to university is still your baby. So it is important for your sanity (and for the good of their health) that you set up some safety rules and discuss these, and why they are so important, before they leave for university. It might well be that you are recovering ground that you have already tackled with them previously, but it’s still important to discuss these safety rules again.

Some of the topics you should cover include:

-The important of safe sex. Even if you have your own strong views about premarital sex, it would be niave not to discuss this with the bundle of hormones that is your teenager. It is better to suffer the embarrassment of discussing safe sex than to end up with an unwanted pregnancy.

-Drink Driving. Not only should you reinforce the message that they should never get behind the wheel when they have had a drink, you should also remind them never to get in a car with a driver that has had a drink. And the same rule applies to cyclists: it isn’t safe to drink and ride!

-Don’t Mix Your Drinks. It would be unrealistic to ask your teenager not to get drunk. But you should talk to them about drinking safely, knowing their limits, and getting back to their dorm room safely when they’re intoxicated. Tackle the problems you know they’re going to face, rather than pretend they’re just not going to happen!

Don’t Forget the Study

With the business of learning to fend for themselves and making new friends to worry about, it can be easy to forget that the main reason your child has gone to university is to learn and study. Studying at university isn’t at all like sixth form, and even the brightest of kids may struggle with the transition. Your child will be responsible for studying independently and setting their own work schedules: no one will chase them or follow up if they stop handing in projects or attending lectures. They will simply fall behind, and could even reach the point where they can’t catch up and are asked to leave.

You can’t do your child’s work for them, and you can’t chase them to study every day. But you can talk to them about the importance of setting a study schedule and give them the tools they need to do so. That means sending them to university with all of the core text books they need and, if you have the budget, ensuring they have an up to date laptop to study on. Finally remind them that their tutors are there for a reason; if they need help then they should ask for it. There is no shame in needing a little extra assistance or in sharing their struggles. But this is something that they should be doing: unlike when they are at school, you will have no input in their university education and you should resist the urge to get involved when it really isn’t your place. Equip your child with the tools they need, and then trust that they will succeed. The transition will be just as exciting for you as it will be for them.

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