Going to university is a big change for a student. While most of them will enjoy the independence of university life, the lack of enforced structure and routine can leave a few baffled.
And juggling lectures, practicals, assignments, projects, and extra-curricular activities can be emotionally draining. Things can become particularly difficult if one suffers from any mental health disorders such as depression or anxiety.
I have to admit, it worries me that once my boys go to university, I can’t be there for them the way I can right now. But that doesn’t mean I can’t support them in other ways!
Making sure I’m always there in a pinch may be all that’s needed. And luckily, our digital world means that staying connected is easier than ever!
Whether your child is preparing for university or is already living on their dream campus, it’s important to figure out the right way to support them. Smothering them with texts and phone calls might drive them away. On the other hand, you will want to watch for warning signs and hints that they might be struggling to cope with university life.
Striking a balance between overwhelming your child with support and becoming emotionally distant is the key to helping them sail through university. Here are a few of the ways you can support your child through their university experience:
1. Don’t Pressure Them to Go
No. Your child doesn’t have to go to university right after they’re done with high school or college. It’s okay if they want to take a year off to clear their head and figure out their life goals. It’s also okay if they want to try their hands at a few jobs before deciding to go to university.
The important thing is to not pressure your child and make them feel like they’re missing out on something. Instead, give them the time and space to sort things out and weigh their options before they zero in on a particular university. The last thing you want is for your child to go to a new campus while they aren’t mentally and emotionally ready.
Instead of forcing them to join a university program, you can use this time to share essential life skills. For instance, if your child doesn’t have basic culinary skills, this is a good time to introduce them to cooking. You should also encourage them to pursue hobbies such as music, gardening, or a sport that can help them relax while they’re away from friends and family.
2. Check the University’s Mental Health Program
If your child has already started applying to various universities, this is a good time to find out whether these institutions have any mental health programs. Do they have advisors or on-campus counselors? Or do they offer mentorship programs to support new students? These are questions you need to ask before your child makes the final selection.
Also, if your child suffers from any physical or mental health-related issues, make sure they inform the university about their current needs. This will allow the university administration to potentially offer your child additional support.
3. Encourage Them to Seek Help
“It’s okay to ask others for help”. This is the best advice you can give to your child while they’re at university. Don’t make them feel like they’re supposed to take care of everything on their own. From lectures and assignments to tests and projects – they’ll have to work on numerous things at the same time. Encourage them to get help from their friends and professors if they feel overburdened.
This is also a good time to remind them that they can always rely on you for support. While you can’t help them with academics, you can always offer a few words of motivation. If they’re struggling with an essay, offer to take a look at it and offer a fresh perspective.
It’s also a great idea to keep a list of valuable online resources and platforms handy for your child. The good news is that the internet is replete with useful online learning resources and apps.
For example, a quick online search led me to HomeworkMarket, an online platform that connects students with experienced and reliable tutors. Sharing such resources with your child can be particularly useful when they’re not comfortable with approaching their professors for help.
4. Stay in Touch
Thanks to modern technology, it’s now possible to see your child’s face every day even when they’re miles away from home. Use this to your advantage by regularly communicating with your child.
Remind them that their family is always going to be there for them, no matter what. If your child has been feeling low for a while, you can even organize a group video call with other family members to cheer them up.
5. Celebrate Their Achievements
Lift your child’s spirits by celebrating every small success. Even a simple assignment submission could be a cause for a celebration. Send them care packages and gifts to keep them motivated and feel emotionally supported. The key is to show your child that you’re proud of them for all their victories, no matter how small.
From those first uncertain days on campus until the big graduation party, parental support can make a world of difference to a child’s university experience. Just remember, even when you can’t be there in person, you can still be there when needed, giving your child the encouragement they need to excel!