I’ve never forgotten my very first day at university. The car was packed with all my stuff and we made the long journey from the family home near Bristol to Lincoln where I’d be a nervous yet excited Fresher. I can remember unpacking my room and closing my bedroom door behind me and realising one thing “Ah. Yeah. Now I’m kinda on my own now aren’t I?”
I hadn’t really received much advice from others before I went to university – I think I was left to my own devices a little bit. On that basis, maybe it would be prudent for parents to talk to their kids before they leave.
Some of life’s lessons can be found at uni, so if you know what to expect then you’ll be able to deal with it better.
Here’s my list of little things that you could talk to your new student son or daughter about…
I think this is always at the front of some parent’s minds. Personally I think media outlets paint us a rather negative stereotype of students and there is perhaps an expectation to conform to this. However, the reality is that what you spend your days doing as a student will help you in later life.
Some of us are portrayed as lazy party-goers. Whilst I don’t think all students are that lazy, I think a little bit of going out and letting your hair down in moderation is rather a good thing. Firstly, the stresses and strains of coursework and other university affairs can eventually take their toll. Getting out every once in a while can help you along nicely, in my view. Of course, you have to balance this against the work and that is where going out can actually help – you are more considered in your approach.
Encouraging a healthy and balanced social life will do your son or daughter well I think. Just make sure that it isn’t all the time!
The only main exception to the rule is probably their first week – the Fresher’s Week. In that time they are going to have the chance to meet lots of people and go out a bit more. It’s OK, since they probably won’t have too many work commitments, so it’s worth letting them loose that week a bit… Just let them know it should calm down after the first week!
Legendarily incorrect myth number two: Students are all poverty-stricken and live off a diet of pot noodles.
University is a big financial commitment, there is no way around that. Fortunately there is support available from the government and their chosen institution. Whilst financially it might be a bit tight, if you can help them learn about budgets and ‘sensible’ practices, there should be no reason why they can’t live pretty well. All it takes is a bit of discipline and some clever tactics to make the money go further. Take a look at our student budgeting tips.
Obviously, it all depends on your personal situation, so it will vary from person to person. However, I think you should be able to teach some good practice – after all, you’ve got the life experience!
Sex, drugs and rock and roll
This is probably the more contentious of issues and this definitely is down to your values. However, it could be prudent to go over some expectations with regards to different topics, especially if they have grown up at home with a certain set of moral values.
Even if you have a relaxed attitude towards something like sex, it probably should be noted that just because your son/daughter is living in a massive accommodation block (most likely) with lots of other young people, it is definitely not a requirement that they have to sleep with all of them. And just because there are drugs and other temptations out there, that doesn’t mean they should be messed with.
Perhaps the safest practice is to reinforce what happened in your family home, unless you’re going to adopt a more laissez-faire approach with regards to lifestyle.
If they were maybe a bit rebellious at home, you might need to brace yourself if they decide to ‘let go’ a bit. Either way, it doesn’t stop you having a certain wish in your head. Make it known to them. You’ll be surprised as to how much we will listen to you!
Even if you struggle with the notion of them going to university, for whatever reason, just remember that your support will go a long way. It’s likely that they will know your feelings on the subject, but remember at the end of the day it is their choice and they’ve got a path they want to follow. You did the same at some point, after all.
If they’re off to university a long way away, sometimes there is a bit of anxiety. You might want your kids close to home to make sure they are safe, for example. The vast majority of students however are sensible and considered. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but eventually they’ll get the hang of it and slowly become more and more independent.
Keep in contact!
I talk to my Dad in some way or form pretty much every single day – that’s rather important to us as a family and I am sure my brother does the same. Being either here in Grenoble or in Lincoln, it’s good for my parents to know that I’m safe and happy.
Drop them a text each day or something and perhaps ask that they let you know what’s going on. It’ll keep you in the know and when things appear a little lonely, it’s always good to hear. I also keep in contact each week through Skype, which lends itself to the power of the Internet. It’s something I can’t recommend enough really.
I hope that this little bit of advice comes in useful long after your son or daughter leaves town!