This time last year my daughter was just about to start university – and my emotions were all over the place. I was delighted and proud that she had a place on the course and in the city that she’d chosen. With memories of my own time as a student in my mind, I was happy to think of the life and opportunities that would open up for her at uni, and the friendships that she’d make there. I enjoyed seeing how excited she was about going away – she was ready for it, and she couldn’t wait to get started.
But at the same time, beneath all of this, I was very sad. So sad that I occasionally found myself in tears, especially when talking to my sister, whose eldest was also just about to start university. I was sad because it felt like the end of something, the end of that stage of family life when you’re all together, a unit, parents and kids, maybe not all of the time, but mostly every day. I knew that she was ready to move on from that stage, but I also knew that I was going to miss her – and my heart ached at the thought of it.
One year later I can tell you that we’re all OK. Yes, I miss my daughter when she’s away, but uni holidays are so long that it seems like she’s at home as much as she’s away. And it still feels like we’re a family unit, but in a different way to how it was before. The start of uni was the end of a particular stage of our family life together, but it was also the beginning of a new stage for us, and that’s fine.
Tips for parents
If your child is heading off to university for the first time, here’s some advice for you from me, and from some other bloggers who’ve also been through this experience. My daughter has also written a post with advice from her perspective- What to do when your child starts university: tips from a student.
- Before they go, teach your child how to cook at least a couple of meals from scratch, and show them how a washing machine works as well as the principles of light and dark laundry.
- If you take your child to university to help them transport their stuff, just drop them off, look at their accommodation, and don’t hang around much longer than that before heading off. They need to settle in, sort themselves out and meet their new flatmates.
- Make sure that your child knows that you’re still there to help them if they need it, even though they’re now away from home.
- Once they’ve settled in, work out the best way of staying in touch. My daughter and I use FaceTime to chat when she’s at uni, often while she’s cooking dinner.
- If you have younger children, think about how this change will affect them. Explain to them what’s happening, when they’ll next see their sibling, and how they can contact them if they’d like to.
- If you have a partner, talk to them about how you’re both feeling.
Tips from Afra Wilmore, mad mum of 7
- Trust your child. A good parent will have equipped their offspring for life away from home. By that I don’t necessarily mean that you have taught them to cook or passed on your epic budgeting skills. No, I mean you have equipped them with great values, personal confidence and a respect for the world and people around them.
- Take a leaf from those early days of teaching them to ride a bike. Let them go forward alone whilst letting them know you will always be there to catch them when they fall.
- When dropping them off, pack tissues in the car. I blubbed all the way home!
Tips from Trish Burgess, Mum’s gone to…
- Tempting as it is, try not to pester your offspring with too many texts or calls. It will either annoy them or you will be left hanging for hours before they reply. If they don’t reply immediately, chances are they are just busy or asleep and likely to be on a totally different time zone anyway – so you’ll receive a reply after midnight, when your nerves are already frazzled.
- Do agree a time for a proper chat/Skype/FaceTime – maybe once a week or fortnight. Keep your news until then.
- Social media does make it so much easier to keep in contact with your student child but it doesn’t mean you should stalk them to see what they’re up to. Don’t ask them who the other people are in photos they share online or say, ‘oh I see you’re going to see such-and-such a band’, just because you’ve noticed they are ‘going to an event’ on Facebook. Wait for them to tell you.
- It can be heart-wrenching when your child leaves home so try and keep yourself busy with other things to take your mind off that empty place at the table. If you have other children, plan some days out with them. If you now have an empty nest, book a holiday and rekindle the romance with your other half.
Tips from Chris Mosler, Thinly Spread
- Make sure they have a small first aid kit, a mattress cover (even if their accommodation says it comes with one, they are thin and nasty!) and a selection of snacks plus check in advance whether they need any leads or wotnot to get onto the internet when they get into their room. A comfy bed, access to the outside world, something to put in their stomachs while they’re sussing everything out and something to repair themselves with will give you peace of mind and quietly help them settle in a bit on that first daunting day.
- Try not to sob/cheer until they’ve vanished from your rear view mirror; a few tears will be forgiven, full on howling will embarrass them in front of their new house mates.
- Book a few treats for you in your diary for the first few weeks, it’s weird being without them even if you still have children at home.
- Be prepared for a mountain of washing when they return even if they know full well how to use a machine.
- Also be prepared for it to feel like they haven’t actually left with short semesters and looooong holidays!
Tips from Joy Jackson, The Sensory Seeker
- I think my main tip is relax – they will cope better than you think. Plus if you have a child with a disability they can seek support from an on-site disability tutor.
Over to you
If you’ve been through this, do you have any tips to add? If your child’s heading off to uni for the first time, did this help? Is there anything else that you’d like to know?
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