Moving to a new city, making new friends, and leaving behind old places and faces is a rite of passage for most students. With so much change, parents will probably have a lot of questions and worries when their child makes the transition to “university life.”

Even if your child is not moving to a new city, the process of leaving school, and moving into the real world is a big adjustment. New places, new friends, and new responsibilities can be scary and strange, especially for shy or socially anxious teens. Helping your child adjust to university life is a big step for you both.

As parents, you know that moving to a new city will be hard for even the most well-adjusted teen. they may sound super-confident, but it’s likely that they will be a little apprehensive too. You’re probably nervous about how your teen will adjust to living away from home, and you want to make sure they are ready. This article will give you helpful tips to help your child make the big move in the smoothest way possible.

Look at accommodation options

To help your child settle into university life, you should look into accommodation options. Most universities will offer accommodation for first-year students. This can help your child to meet other new students in the same position. By considering factors such as price, location, and amenities provided, you and your child should be able to work out which accommodation options suit them best. 

There is also the option of living in privately rented accommodation. These options aren’t provided by the university, giving your child more freedom. Talk to your child to figure out what they’d like best. 

 Be aware as a parent, that your child might need to put down a deposit on their accommodation, especially if it is not student accommodation, and/or they may need you as a guarantor. Whichever type of accommodation you choose, make sure that your child knows when the rent is due (monthly or termly), and check when they will receive any student finance that they have applied for – you may find there are cash flow problems that you will have to plug as a parent.

Budgeting for rent is one of the biggest things that students have to adapt to, so it’s worthwhile making sure that they understand what they need to do and how much money they need to put aside for future rent commitments.

At my daughter’s university, there is also a very competitive accommodation market. Within six weeks of arriving for her first year, she had chosen the people she will be living with in year two, they went house hunting, and she needed a deposit before Christmas for a house she will not be occupying until July (and yes, she does have to pay rent all over the summer holidays if she wants it!). I found this really shocking, but apparently, it is normal where she is, and if she had left it later the best houses would be gone.

Plan what they’ll need together

As a parent, you may be feeling the weight of responsibility when it comes to getting your teen set up for university life. The first step is to plan what they’ll need.

The two of you can start by making a checklist of everything your child will need for their room, including the basics like bedding, towels, and toiletries. Depending on whether it is catered or self-catering accommodation, they may also need kitchen equipment and utensils. You can also plan for what they’ll need in terms of clothing and school supplies.

Planning ahead will help you avoid last-minute rush packing. It can also help your child to visualise what their new life will look like. It all feels more real when you’ve got your things. Taking them shopping to buy these things can give your child a feeling of independence and ownership of their new life. If you go to places like IKEA in late August, you will find them full of parent-child duos, and be aware that bedding for single beds and other essentials can sell out very quickly at that time of year.

Make the car journey as smooth as possible

The first step to helping your teen adjust is to make the car journey as smooth as possible. Take plenty of snacks and drinks, just in case you get stuck in traffic on the way there. A car journey can take a while, so it’s best to be prepared and have plenty of entertainment just in case. Enjoy this time together: it might be the last few hours for a while. Ask them if there is anything they are worried about so they can have a chance to air any fears. 

Saying goodbye

When you get to the university, there will eventually have to come a time when you leave your child behind, and that moment may be difficult for both of you. You have to be strong though, and be happy for your child taking their first independent steps.

At this point, it’s essential to listen to what your child wants and read the body language. If they really want to get on with things by themselves, then you need to go, even if you are not ready. If they are in self-catering accommodation, then a trip to the supermarket to get them stocked up with food and drinks of choice might be good for both of you. I also chose to take my daughter out for one last good lunch before I left her behind.

You may find though, that even though they said all the way there that they wanted to be independent, when the moment comes they actually want you to stay and help them unpack, and delay the point of parting. At that point, it will be up to you to choose the appropriate moment to leave, and try to hold back your own emotions until after you have parted. I will warn you now – the drive back with an empty car is very hard indeed…

Remind yourself that this is not forever. Depending on how far away they have chosen to go, you may find that they come home more regularly than you were expecting. You can almost certainly expect them back at Christmas and Easter, and many universities also have “reading weeks” which are like half term, with no lectures, and some students come home at that time, or for revision periods prior to any exams they may have.

At the end of the day, this is just another step along the road, just like starting primary school and moving to secondary school. It’s an adjustment and an upheaval, but it comes to all parents, and I promise you will adjust and get used to it. I hear from a lot of parents of older children that a lot of them move back in when they finish university, so maybe you will enjoy a bit of peace and quiet for a while.

As for me, I’ve got one more year and then my baby will be going off too, and we will have an empty house – and that’s a whole different ballgame…