For students on the brink of university it’s a really exciting time, and maybe more emotional for you than them as they launch off on their own, often without a backward glance - at least for the first few days that is, or until they realize they have forgotten something or can’t operate the laundry!
It can be hard to relinquish your role as influencer, organiser and problem solver, and for the first time you won’t know what they are doing on a daily basis, or who their friends are. The focus of their world is changing, and this is now the time to embrace the changing relationship and let them go.
So here are five tips:
- If bursting with advice, pause for a moment. They won’t take much notice anyway (they know most things after all!), and if they are feeling nervous your warnings won’t help their state of mind - better to ask what they are worried about and come to it from their angle.
- Stand back. You have brought them up with love and care and given them valuable life skills, and now they need the space to build on that, explore and learn.
- Be available. You can no longer wade in and take control to solve a problem, and neither will they welcome you doing so. Instead, let them sort things out the way they want to, and be there when they ask for help and support.
- Let them see you are ok too. You will feel sad when they have gone, and a sense of emptiness to some degree is inevitable, as it is the end of an era. So you need to give yourself some TLC, plan something new to do that week, meet up with friends and keep busy. Give them the ok to not worry about leaving you too.
- When to say goodbye? When asked, students suggested you leave once someone else has arrived in hall and unpacked too & their parents seem about to go. An up beat text later is always welcome!
And advice from 2nd year students to freshers, which you may want to pass on:
- Don’t worry if you don’t like the people you meet in freshers week. They are unlikely to be your long term friends and you will find other people you like much more, but they are useful to hang around with until you find your feet.
- Make sure you are with someone who knows you well if you are going out in case you get drunk and need to be taken home.
- Join lots of clubs- it’s a great way of meeting people even if you don’t keep the club up after a while.
- Get involved in a sporting activity, even if its Frisbee throwing, as its where you meet people outside of your course.
- Get a student phone deal with lots of free texts, as you will send huge volumes of texts to organise a social life.
- Don’t go home for the first few weekends, even if you are sad. The first few weeks are a peak time for making friends.
And when they boomerang back for the holidays ?
Students have an amazing capacity for assuming that cleaning and tidying around the home happens by magic and certainly has nothing to do with them. If they have been living in a student house the chances are that it only really got cleaned when they moved out, and wanted their rent deposit back. To protect your sanity and your temper you should lay down some ground rules.
You may need to reintroduce them to bed making, use of the vacuum and the strange concept of regular bathroom and loo cleaning. The art of washing up dirty pans and dishes or putting them (neatly!) in the dishwasher is also one they might need reacquainting with, as is unloading it. (If you are missing mugs, a trawl through bedrooms, and around the vicinity of the TV will usually unearth a few). If they have scoffed the last carton of juice they should write it on a shopping list, and not put the empty one back in the fridge. Actually, come to think of it some husbands may also benefit from these instructions too!
Washing clothes? This is a tricky one. Tell them to do their own washing and you will probably find the machine on with only a few pairs of pants and a shirt, colours all mixed in with the whites of course. Try to get them to wash in a more eco-friendly fashion, checking first if other family members also have clothing to wash. Actually maybe not a good idea as this would put everyone’s clothes at risk of emerging stained pink or a grubby grey! And don’t even go down the ironing route – just work on the basis that, as they aren’t bothered themselves, and any clean clothes are usually stored in an unruly pile for random access, you absolutely should not do their ironing.
If none of this works, and you are still exasperated by damp towels and clothes dumped on the floor and a vacuum that gathers dust, then you may need to resort to two extreme but effective measures. Don’t restock the fridge and don’t cook their meals - its guaranteed to drive the message home and will improve their housekeeping skills at an exponential rate!