There are several major transitions that a child goes through in different stages of his or her life – entering preschool, primary school, secondary school, tertiary education, university, and the workforce.
Transitions are challenging and the people adapting to these transitions are often not just the child, but also their parents. From packing their school bags for preschool, to making sure they are making friends and are keeping up academically in primary school and beyond, the list of things to prepare for expands as children grow in age, size, appearance, and maturity.
Beyond physical preparations, the emotional and mental preparations needed when facing each transition are tougher on parents. After all, who would enjoy hearing your toddler scream and cry when dropping your child off at preschool?
But the biggest transition period yet for parents is often when their children enter university and choose to ‘move out’ of the house to stay in hostels or attend university overseas. Even if some choose to commute to campus from home rather than at a hostel, they may not be home as much as before. Parents of university students will have to learn how to adjust to the lifestyles of their children who have become young adults and want a life of their own.
How should parents prepare themselves for their young adult children’s transition into university?
Even though parents want to spend time with their young adult children, especially so if they do not see their children much during the weekdays, parents must adjust their expectations about family life and time.
We often hear comments from parents about how their young adult children treat their homes like hotels – they return home just to sleep for the night. Truth be told, homes for young adult children will be a transitory space as they will be involved in many activities at this stage of their life. Parents need to recognise that and manage their expectations.
2. Be intentional
When it comes to family time, be intentional in making plans and sharing your plans to your young adult children. This will be helpful for family dynamics as parents will not come across as overbearing, insisting on family time when their young adult children have other activities planned. Pre-planned family time would also help to emphasise the importance of meeting together as a family, while giving space for young adult children to work around the family schedule and make plans for other activities.
Parents should also be mindful of overcompensating behaviour whenever they see their children. For instance, parents may want to prepare all their children’s favourite food over the weekend since they do not see them much during the weekdays. However, their young adult children may have other activities planned and will not be around to eat the food. This would lead to parents feeling disappointed and rejected. Being aware of overcompensating behaviour would help to manage parents’ expectations and prevent feelings of disappointment from their children.
3. Communication is key
Communicating with young adults is different and it is important that the conversation is focused on what is important to them and their relationship with parents. When their children were younger, parents might ask, “How was school? What did you learn?” Now, rather than asking that to young adult children after a week of studying in university, keep communication open and find out if they require support financially, mentally, or physically.
Communication with young adult children will be more effective when parents shift their perspectives from a gatekeeper mentality to parent-mentor mindset. Coach your child and talk to them as a mentor about topics that interest them such as relationship, career planning, and financial advice. Quality conversations about life in general would help parents to engage their young adult children and show that they care about aspects of life that matter to them.
How can parents support their young adult children in their university life?
1. Share your life experiences with your children.
Having conversations about the life experiences of their parents would help young adult children to understand the challenges or struggles their parents faced and understand that they are not alone in dealing with similar issues.
For instance, parents could share with their children about past relationships that did not work out, difficulties in finding their first job, or mental health struggles at the lowest points of their lives.
Being open and honest about life experiences would help to strengthen the bond between parents and their children. Parents may find themselves learning from their young adult children as well!
2. Share your resources with them.
Being in-tune with the job market and workplace trends would help your children as they would appreciate receiving sound and good advice before stepping into a work or financial commitment. Major financial decisions such as investments or life and health insurance are areas that parents can offer support if they are well-equipped to answer their children’s queries about such matters.
However, if parents are not financially savvy, they can always direct their children to the right resources or seek expert help from reliable acquaintances who work in that industry.
Parents, we hope you have gathered some useful tips to prepare yourself for your child’s transition into university. Parenting is a lifelong journey, and we are ever learning and growing in the process to support our children, no matter how young and old they may be!
TOUCH Parenting aims to strengthen parent-child relationships by providing parents with relevant parenting resources through every stage of their parenting journey. It conducts informative talks and workshops which empower parents with knowledge on preparing for and raising a new-born, navigating the digital age with their child, parent-child communication, and nurturing resilient children and youths. It is also appointed by the Ministry of Social and Family Development as the Parent Support Provider (PSP) for Primary and Secondary schools in Singapore.