Here are the life hacks for coping with the stressful time of a child heading to university or college…
It’s that time of year when parents pack their children off to university or college, and even though it’s exciting to see them embarking on a great new adventure and following their dreams, it can also be a period of great anxiety. Many parents worry about their children leaving the family home for communal living. The worries vary from how they’ll handle cooking, laundry and cleaning to whether they’ll be happy and successful; not to mention the worry of loneliness and emptiness for the parents themselves.
Here are some practical tips to help with the transition for both parents and students:
Advice for parents
1. Embrace new beginnings
Children take up a lot of head-space and you’ll be left with more free time than you’re used to. It’s the perfect opportunity to take up an interest that you didn’t have time for before. This could take the form of a new hobby, joining a club or volunteering with a charity organisation. The key is to keep busy. You will likely also meet others in the same situation with whom you can share your feelings. Many parents also speak to professionals in these situations to ensure that they have all the coping mechanisms needed to be able to support themselves and their child.
2. Set a schedule to keep in touch with your child
Not too often though! You need to give your child room to breathe and find their feet, but you should be in touch enough to know how they are and for them to know you’re still there for them. Set up a regular check-in day and time that you can both look forward to.
3. Hire a housekeeper for your child
Most parents worry about the state of their children’s student accommodation. Is it clean and tidy? Does my child know how to clean properly? Will they be living in perpetual filth? Consider hiring a cleaning service, like a ‘SweepStar’ from SweepSouth to clean their digs on a recurring basis and take care of their laundry so that they can focus on their studies and not have to deal with the somewhat overwhelming feeling of running a household for the first time.
4. Teach your child how to budget
If you haven’t done so already, sit your now-young-adult down and go through the basics of budgeting with them. This isn’t necessarily included in the school curriculum and many new students don’t have the first clue of where to start. There are some useful free budget apps available so get your child to try these out – they may find them more relatable than a spreadsheet.
5. Safety first
Reinforce the basics of safety with your child – everything from taking care of their belongings to not drinking and driving to using the buddy system. For your own peace-of-mind, kit them out with pepper spray, an emergency whistle, a first-aid kit, and sufficient airtime for emergencies. Also ensure that their digs-mates have your contact details and feel confident to contact you should anything go wrong.
6. Surprise and delight
As a parent, you’ll probably tell your child about how you used to receive care packages in the post from your parents when you were a student or when you started your first job. With the postal service being what it is, it may be more practical to surprise your children with online deliveries.
For example, you could send a gift via Takealot or Loot for their birthday, or organise the delivery of home-cooked freshly frozen foods (think Gia’s Kitchen) ahead of a big exam. This is a great pick-me-up during stressful times.
Leaving home can be difficult for a child, but it’s never easy for parents to send their children out into the world on their own
Advice for students:
1. Learn to cook your favourite meals before moving out
Take-aways are good to quell hunger pangs from time to time, but a home-cooked meal is not only more nutritious, but also lighter on your budget. In addition to eating your favourite meal, it will also remind you of home and bring back great memories. Get your family to share the tried and tested secrets to your favourite dish. Consider a weekly meal plan so you don’t always have to think about what to prepare. Cook in bulk over the weekends and freeze meal-sized portions.
2. Frame photos and take them with you
If you’re studying far from home, the home-sickness will get you at unexpected times. If you can’t see your family and friends in the flesh, the next best thing is to have their pictures in your room. It may seem old-fashioned to have actual printed photos, but if they’re just saved on a device you won’t necessarily scroll through and find that memory that cheers you up. Having these familiar faces around you will make the transition into a new environment a bit easier.
3. Keep in touch with your parents and friends at home
We know that it’s a new life in a new city, but don’t lose your connection to home. The support and love from your parents and friends will get you through the tough times. Make sure you have all the apps lined up – be it FaceTime, WhatsApp, Google Hangouts or Skype – and that you set up regular chat sessions with your old friends. It can be easy to lose touch without scheduled chats.
4. Make friends
Be proactive in making new friends that share similar interests and values to you. Being a student should be fun and it’s even more so with like-minded friends. They make the transition much easier. The sure-fire way to make friends at university or college is to join a club or association. Find the one that works for you best, whether it’s soccer or archery, wine-tasting or the pub quiz team, debating or ball-room dancing. Some of the best bonds are formed at these get-togethers.
5. Get a pot plant
Pot plants are fantastic for brightening up any room. Not only do they give us oxygen, but they’re also good for relieving stress symptoms, improving mental health and wellbeing. If you’re living in a digs with a garden, do some planting – it’s a cost-effective way of making a property feel more like home (especially if you use cuttings of succulents instead of buying plants).
6. Become a bargain hunter
Student discounts are a thing. Do some research of the city you’re in to find out which establishments offer student discounts and plan carefully to take advantage of them. If you want to go to a restaurant, make sure that it’s on a night they have a student special. Similarly, if you’re booking an event, plan ahead to get those early-bird and student discounts. Some stationers and text book stores even offer discounts, so shop around before you commit.
Leaving home can be difficult for a child, but it’s never easy for parents to send their children out into the world on their own. Knowing that they are happy and that you’ve put all the steps in place to ensure that they thrive should make it a bit less traumatic. Children will also cope better when they see their parents being supportive and handling it well. No child should feel guilty for going to university and parents also deserve to enjoy their own new beginnings.