Parent’s guide to visiting your kids at university
By Nicole Correia,
Visiting your kids at uni is something most parents have mixed feelings towards, or so we imagine: nerves, excitement, anxiety, pride. theunipod have put together some advice, written by an undergraduate, to fill you in on what to expect on your first daunting visit to see what your children are really getting up to at university!
We’re pretty sure you’ve taught your child how they should behave whilst at university and the important things to remember. Here’s their turn to teach you and give you a head start on what to expect.
What’s it like?... what to expect on a visit
It is more than likely that your first visit to university will be the most daunting one. Your child will no doubt be excited to show you around, fill you in on everything, and will likely also feel a sense of pride about the university they are attending. Whilst you are proud of them too it is probable that you are also quite anxious; how are they living? Are they happy? Are the people around them nice?
You will find out the answers to these questions through your child - let them tell you, rather than making assumptions. This is important as it will show that you have a trusting relationship and that you are supportive and interested. Of course, you may still find that old habits die hard and that despite your visit being arranged a couple weeks ago, their room is still a mess (it’s one of the rights of being a student living away from home!). They’ll tidy it on their own – most have inspectors at the end of each term in halls!
We’re all different
Of course each child is different; from sibling to sibling too, and with this in mind it’s important to remember that everyone’s university experience is different. It is all too easy to compare to perhaps your own, or a friend’s, or elder sibling’s, but it is important to try and avoid this as they are probably more than aware of other people’s experiences through social media or general socialising. Regular contact is important but remember that your child is dealing with a big change and will no doubt need to adjust in their own time. Your support will be ever more appreciated during this time as they realise how their responsibilities living away from home are different.
How often should you visit?
This also depends on the child, as well as the distance from home. It is probably cheaper for a parent to visit a child at a university by driving than it is for the child to buy a train ticket. However, it may be preferred that your child stays at home for the weekend and uses the return ticket after a few nights in their bed at home and a nutritious home-cooked meal or two! Open return tickets are - more often than not - the same amount of money. Visit as much as your child suggests, if you can, but if not then Skype is a great way to communicate whilst they are at university and will hopefully reassure both yourself and your child to know that the instant communication is always available.
What is important is not to impose yourself upon them too regularly, and to ensure you do give them the independence they are likely to be craving. Again, this comes back to the fact that every student is different, so this applies on a case-by-case basis, but generally speaking, students of this day and age will want to revel in this new found freedom and not want to feel like they are being ‘watched’. So no matter how concerned you might be, it is important to give them their space, and use other means of communications to stay in touch. Our interviews with university parents might well show you that you are in good company.
Where, what and how
Where should you go and what should do once you’re up there? It is a great idea to let your child decide where to go and what to do - they will have thought of this and probably have a few suggestions. Hopefully they will be able to tour you around the town or campus. It is probable that a shopping trip to Tescos may be involved and a meal out at a restaurant - a treat for your (hopefully) thrifty child!
How long should you stay? Well, this all depends on the location and accommodation. We certainly wouldn’t advise trying or even asking to stay with your children – this is infringing on their freedom and is very different to them visiting you. So consider a day trip if the distance isn’t too far, or if they are at the other end of the country, then try to find a hotel nearby so you can spend more than a day together. You must also consider your child’s academic (as well as social or sporting) commitments that may be interrupted.
What should you bring? Whilst your child is probably going to be thrilled to see you, home comforts are always a winner and will be appreciated more than you expect - especially after the first term when the novelty of going to Tescos has worn off.
Meeting their university friends
As with all aspects, each child is different, and will have their own opinion on this one. If your child doesn’t suggest an introduction then you suggest it once you feel your child has settled with a set group of friends. However, if it isn’t something they have suggested, they may well ont feel comfortable yet with introducing you to their new uni friends. Also, consider that your first visit will differ from when you go to see them after a few months and they are more comfortable in their new surroundings.
However, there are some tactics which can work - perhaps driving them all to Tesco or helping cook a big dinner for everyone?
This now depends on you, the parent - your child cannot control this one but we are pretty sure you can! Remember, however, that your child’s first year at university is a pivotal time for personal development and it’s important that they feel comfortable, and in control on some level.
Ultimately, this all comes down to your relationship with you kids, and how they are settling in at uni. Just be sure to give them their freedom, accept they are teenagers and ultimately may still be at an age where their parents ‘embarrass’ them, and your relationship with them will grow and develop along with their time at uni.