The truth is, you’ve been preparing your child for this day from day one. You’ve dropped them off at nursery, at their first day of school and now, you’re about to do the same at university, or in their new flat.
The difference this time is that they won’t be coming back home with you.
No doubt you’ve joked that this is the day you’ve been looking forward to ever since they were born, but it’s probably one of the most daunting things a parent can go through. You might have looked at every advice article, and bought every moving-in essential recommended online but the experience of dropping your child off in a new place with new people can be jarring.
The transition into adulthood is one of the most difficult periods of a person’s life, but don’t fear! We have some tips and guidance about striking the right balance between wanting to be there for your child and wanting them to be independent.
Let’s be practical
The practicalities of moving out, while seemingly endless, will probably be the easiest part of the process. Your teenager will need the usual suspects, such as bedding, towels and kitchen utensils, but here are some essentials that can sometimes be missed, but will be appreciated:
Encourage an open door policy in their new flat or in their halls. Leaving home for the first time can be an isolating experience, especially if your child is more introverted, so making sure their door is able to stay open on moving day will encourage new flatmates to step in and say hi. Making friends will help them settle into their new lives much faster.
A medicine kit
Include the bare minimum of paracetamol, ibuprofen, cold and flu sachets, plasters, and tissues. Chances are your child isn’t thinking about Fresher’s Flu just yet, but when it hits them in their first few weeks away, they’ll be grateful that they don’t have to leave bed to get medicine.
Let’s be honest, you can never have enough of them.
Again, one of those items that you always forget to buy until you really need them.
Skills for life
In the run up to moving out, there are a few things that you can do to prepare your child for living on their own.
Your teen will soon be introduced to the wonderful world of bills, and with the majority of Student Maintenance Loans and Grants not even covering rent for the year, chances are that there will be times when they will find themselves strapped for cash.
Helping them understand how to control their spending in order to make the most of their loan will save both of you extra worry in the long run, and will set them in good stead for the future.
Having a conversation about finances with your child can seem like a strange experience, but the sooner you have it, the sooner you can begin examining your own financial situation and figuring to how much you can afford to help out.
If you’re able to help your child out, that’s great. In fact, Student Finance expects those with a household income above £25,000 per year to support their children through university. It’s completely up to you how much or how little you decide to give your child, but it’s good to bear in mind that they are now independent and constantly bailing them out of financial hiccups will probably not be good for them in the long run.
If you’re not in a position to financially support your child while they’re at university, they might need to consider part-time work to make up the shortfall. Most Student Unions will have some kind of jobs board specifically aimed at students looking for a job that will fit around their studies, but there are other options for them to explore.
Most of this section is common sense, but it’s always worth reiterating.
Apart from managing their money, having to take care of themselves will probably be the strangest adjustment for your child to make. Now, instead of expecting you to clean up after them, they’re going to be doing it by themselves, for themselves (kids moving out isn’t all bad). But there are still a few things you can do to help them along their way.
Unless they’re in catered accommodation at university, your child will be cooking for themselves, so make sure they have a few basic meals under their belts before they leave home, including staples such as pasta, potatoes and rice.
Another seemingly obvious tip is to make sure your child knows how to use a washing machine if they don’t already and knows how to separate their clothes to avoid a potentially embarrassing laundry disaster in their new home.
The big day
Most importantly: prepare yourself. You can be forgiven for focusing on your child during this time, but it’s also important to take some time for yourself. If your teenager senses something is off, then that will immediately put them on edge on an already stressful day. Maybe plan an activity with your partner or friends after you’ve left, or simply enjoy having the house to yourself for once!
Don’t linger. You need to give your teen time and space to settle into their new place and get to know their new flatmates – which won’t happen if you’ve made yourself comfortable with a cup of tea. Equally, wanting to get in and out as fast as possible might seem like a good idea, but it may almost seem like you can’t wait to get rid of them. However true that may be, stay long enough to help them unpack (their way – even if you disagree with the placement of something, it’s their room) before leaving once you’re sure they’re settled in.
Keep in touch - but not too much. Constant phone calls, while calming your own fears about their safety and whereabouts, will quickly become a nuisance when your child is having their first taste of independence.
If you want to help prepare your child even more, come along to WhatCareerLive and WhatUniversityLive on 3 & 4 March at the NEC in Birmingham, or 6 & 7 October at Olympia, London.