When you have a teen who’s packed up and gone to university for the first time, it’s certainly a rollercoaster of emotions. You’re excited for them, you’re nervous, you’re worried they won’t like it… will they manage without you? Will they eat right? And what ever happened to that tiny baby you had all those years ago??
But what can you do to help them prepare for their life at University? Sure they might already be settling in, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still offer a little advice. After all, I’m sure they’d love a little reminder that you’re always thinking about them – and they’ll be home for their first mid-semester ‘reading week’ soon. With many first year students having second thoughts about their choice of university or course, this is an important time to support them and help them stay in uni.
Looking back at my own experience of university (having dropped out of TWO courses before getting my Degree and Masters, can you believe it!) here are some thing that would certainly have helped me and that you can use to support your teen too:
ENCOURAGE THEM WITH THEIR STUDIES
The amount of work and studying required of uni students will be nothing like they’ve experienced so far. So it’s pretty easy for a new student to feel overwhelmed and have their university experience turn sour very quickly. That first exciting month is over now. They’ve enjoyed Freshers week, stayed up late, met new friends and spent most of their student loan (uhoh) and now the work starts and deadlines approach.
New study/writing techniques are a lot to learn all at once, on top of the subject that they’re learning, such as the need to always check for plagiarism, issues with citations, and not forgetting their old adversaries: spelling and grammar. But there are things you can do to help by sharing your own knowledge of these techniques if you have examples from your own uni days, and by taking advantage of student deals to invest in proofreading and plagiarism software and the best word count checker for them to use.
ENCOURAGE THEM TO EAT HEALTHILY
They’re at uni, so the temptation to simply live off takeaways and fast food is easily indulged. This was certainly the case for me and I left uni nearly 4 stone heavier than when I started! This can take its toll on students’ physical and mental health so encourage them as much as you can to eat healthily. Whether that’s ordering them an online shop that’s delivered to their accommodation or sending them easy to follow recipes. When they come home to visit for reading week, send them away again with plenty of home cooked meals that they can freeze and then heat up when they need them. Thankfully, I was able to lose the weight that I gained as a student as soon as I moved away from a city full of takeaways haha!
ENCOURAGE THEM TO SPEAK UP
Something not quite right at Uni? Whether they’ve had a bad experience, or they’re concerned about the progress of their studies, encourage them to not struggle in silence. Make sure they’re aware of who they can contact on campus if there is a problem, because there’s always a someone that can help – the Students’ Union, the wellbeing team, the finance office, etc. Of course, you’re only on the other end of the phone, but encourage them to use their initiative too.
ENCOURAGE THEM TO BUDGET
Also, debt can have a negative impact on mental wellbeing, so make sure your teenage student knows how to manage their money and budget for the rest of the term. At this time of year there are SO many banks offering student overdrafts and rewards for opening accounts (something I know all too well about) and it is so tempting to use student credit when it’s right there. Research on the psychology of debt shows that 41% of those surveyed feel that the stress of debt repayments is causing their mental health to deteriorate. Students don’t need that kind of problem on top of their studies so talk to them about money asap.
ENCOURAGE THEM TO LOOK AFTER EACH OTHER
The number of students that live with a mental health issue is growing. Whether it’s anxiety, depression, or isolation, mental health is something that should always be spoken about. Make sure your teen knows how something as simple as asking a fellow student if they’re okay can make a huge difference. And in addition, if they ever find themselves struggling encourage them to either reach out to you, a fellow student or their GP. With yesterday being World Mental Health Day, there’s no better time to talk to your teen to make sure all is well.
ENCOURAGE THEM TO STAY SAFE
Whether they’re on a night out, drinking, or having fun with their new friends it won’t hurt to reiterate that they should always use their common sense and never feel pressured to do anything that doesn’t feel right. This will give you peace of mind too.
If you’ve been to uni or have a teenager that’s currently studying, please let me know what advice you would add to this blog post in the comments below, I’d love to get your perspective and hear your tips 🙂
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