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Being the parent of a university student is really different to being the parent of a school student. At university the student is treated as an adult and all communication is with the student. Parents can feel left out and frustrated as they rely on their student for information. However it is important that young people begin to take responsibility for their own lives and this is one way that university life contributes to the development of the emerging adult.
Making the transition to university styles of learning and to the new culture of the campus can take quite a lot of adjusting to and is demanding for all new students. It can seem (and is often the case) that the social side of university gets much more attention than the study. Again, it is important for the student to manage their time, make decisions, take responsibility and bear the consequences of their choices.
University is a great place for young people to explore and experiment with their identity and values as they grow into adults. university offers exposure to many new people, ideas, lifestyles, cultures and opportunities that contribute to a diverse education and personal growth.
For parents this can be scary as they worry about what their student is exposed to, in danger of doing or not doing!! It is normal for young people to experiment and everyone does so to varying degrees. If you are worried or think the behaviour of your student is extreme always consult a professional.
Between the ages of 18 to 25 your student will change greatly as they become adult. The tasks of this stage are to separate from family, develop independent mature relationships, begin to work towards economic independence and develop a sense of identity. As young people stay at home longer, move in and out of study and work, and often remain dependent on their parents for longer than in the past, it is likely that the family will experience pressures and demands. This takes some careful handling. It can be helpful for parents to talk with others in the same parenting boat as this normalises the experience (just like you did when they were 2 year olds).
Try to keep communication open and respectful, be interested and available for your student. The important message is that you care, are listening and will support them when needed. And you need to step back and allow them to make decisions and take responsibility for their own lives. Quite a difficult juggling act at times.
If your student is living at home - be clear and open about the rules or terms of your living arrangements. You may need to discuss and renegotiate these terms from time to time so try to keep the communication open and respectful as you would with a friend or colleague. Your student is growing up and changing rapidly so expect there to be lots of changes and growth!!
If your student is living away from home, keep communication open and respectful too. Be interested but not intrusive. Use the opportunities as they are presented to you. Encourage contact with home and show interest in their lives. It can be hard to get much out of your student as they use the living away experience as a way to begin to separate from you. Don't be surprised if they contact you infrequently. On the other hand, some students have more contact than when they lived at home, as they adjust to the separation. With all young people, they still look to you for approval and interest even if they deny it!
Being the parent of a university student is an interesting and exciting time too. University is a great place for these young people to grow into adults and thinking, caring, intelligent adults emerge.
Good luck and remember your life is changing too and you are modelling coping strategies as you navigate your life stages.