How To be A Supportive Parent While Your Child’s At Uni
With this year’s round of high-school leavers getting ready to head into the next phase of their lives, we decided to dedicate this article to you – the parents. Understandably, both mums and dads alike are going to be concerned about how their child will cope with university.
While heading off to uni is going to be a big independent step for them, there are lots of things you can do to make their ride a bit smoother (without completely babying them of course). So, here’s a quick guide on how to be a great, supportive parent while your child is at university.
1) Be aware of stress
Most students identify health or emotional factors as issues that impede academic success. However, it is still important to talk to your child about his/her specific concerns.
2) Model Strong Communication Skills.
Model the communication skills that you want your child to learn. Use your conversations to strengthen your connections. Show that it is okay to talk about sensitive and emotional subjects, and that it is fine to disagree and be upset. You can always come back and continue the discussion later with no damage done.
3) Be honest about mental health in your own lives.
Share your personal experiences and those of family and friends. Talk with empathy and understanding about the value of professional psychological help. Young adults today connect many psychological issues with shame and embarrassment; a simple word change can produce dramatic results by normalizing mental health issues
4) Listen (and Listen Well). Learn to be an active listener.
Don’t finish your child’s thoughts or interrupt with a quick solution, let him/her finish his/her own sentences. Use nonverbal listening techniques – lean in, maintain good eye contact, smile as appropriate. Talk, Don’t Criticize. Avoid controlling words like must and ought. Have balanced, open conversations with your child. Present your views in non-critical ways in order to help them discover his/her own answers to life’s challenges.
5) Communicate Regularly.
Set up a regular time to talk while your child is away at school, for example every Sunday, to catch up on the week‘s events.
Let your child know that they do not have to protect you from their problems. Make sure you communicate that you are available as a resource, even if you assume your child already knows this.
6) Agree to disagree.
At times you will simply not see eye to eye with your child, accept this and instead try to reach a middle ground. Take time outs. The issues you will discuss may be very tough at times. Acknowledge that you both might be too upset to talk at the moment, but then set up a specific time to revisit the issue and stick to it!
7) Encourage Problem-Solving Skills.
Help your child think about how to approach a problem and get him/her to weigh the pros and cons of possible solutions. Let him/her come up with the options, and evaluate the consequences of each to decide which is best.
Bonus tips for parents of new uni students
■ Find a middle ground so you are there when they need you while also giving them space and privacy.
■ Be positive and show you believe in them, even if you have doubts about their course and subject choices.
■ Ask for a calendar of due dates for assignments to be posted prominently at home.
■ Encourage networking and participation in clubs and sports to build friendships.
■ Dissuade students from overloading with paid work in their first semester while they discover the demands of full-time study.