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Children going off to University

Over the Summer I have been busy preparing a seminar for Rothschild directed at parents of children about to start university.  I must admit until now I hadn’t focused too much on this stage as it is not something I have yet experienced with my own children.

I do often remind parents that their main role is to prepare their child for adult life.  Seeing them off to university is a sure sign that you have done something right as a parent and hopefully given them the skills to be independent.   However, your relationship with them will never be quite the same again.  One of your greatest loves is walking out the door.  Of course they will no doubt be back in the holidays, once again creating a mess and making demands!!  Also the reality is that many children come to live at home after uni as the cost of having their own place is extremely prohibitive for new graduates.

During this period from what I have heard from friends and speaking extensively to other parents who have been through it, your child will grow up like never before and unlike their first 18 years of life, most of that growing up will be happening without you. You then prepare for what’s likely to be the longest phase of your relationship with your child which is your relationship as 2 adults.

What does your child need to be prepared for University?

As I was putting together the content for the seminar, I realised that I could give very practical advice such as a checklist of what to buy/take and how to handle the emotional element of dropping them off, staying connected whilst they are away and thinking about careers after uni.  However, all the most important preparatory work should start by parents years in advance, such as:

  • Handling strong emotions, relationshps, setbacks and being resilient
  • Tools for independent living: handling money, budgeting, cooking, washing, cleaning
  • Tools for independent learning: time management, self-motivation, handling procrastination and stress
  • Staying safe: online safety, drugs, alcohol, sex
  • Problem solving, thinking for themselves, handling mistakes

My eldest is 15 and hopefully if he gets through these next 3 years of exams he will be off to uni.  Preparing this talk has really encouraged me to focus on my priorities and ensure that I am not just worrying about the academics but actually raising an adult.

I have also got drawn into many articles by parents and psychologists on the ’empty nest syndrome’.  I can only imagine that letting go of your kids is hard and happens so quickly.  I also expect that when the time comes, I will feel a whole lot better if I have done my job as a parent and prepared my children as much as I can for life so they are ready for the next phase of the adventure.

Even if your child is quite young and uni seems like a long way off, start thinking about:

What are the core skills, qualities and characteristics your child will require?

How will you ensure they have these before it’s time to leave your home?


As a starting point, a great book that I read on this topic is by Julie Lythcott-Haims a former dean of Stanford.  During her time there she noticed the rise in parental involvement in students’ live and the damage that causes.