How can I prepare my child for university? Tips for helping uni-bound teens
Updated: Aug 19
In the blink of an eye your rambunctious toddler is now a teenager with their own A Level results and no doubt the following weeks are now going to be spent in a flurry of pre-uni nerves! As such, you might be asking yourself, while watching said teen struggle to open a can of beans, "How can I prepare my child for university?" Here are a few tips to help your teen AND you get to grips with this exciting-but-scary milestone...
Put your positive hat on
Okay, so you might be hysterical inside, but chances are your teen is freaking out about flying the nest too. They're heading into the unknown and are likely to be feeling under pressure right now for sure. Put your worries aside, and be super positive and supportive in every way you can. Shop together for uni bits, talk about feelings (easier said than done, we know, when it comes to reticent teenagers), and reassure, reassure and reassure some more.
Stick your lists to the fridge
There's a whole lotta stuff to buy when it comes to packing your teen off to university, so get it done sooner rather than later to save stressing about it on moving day! Create a checklist together and group items room-by-room to figure out what they will need. Tick the items off as you go and pack it into boxes/suitcases as soon as you buy it else it WILL go missing. No one wants to be looking for missing pillow cases, essential Pot Noodles or the laptop charger on the big day!
Put together a survival kit
As well as the obvious bits and bobs they'll need for setting up their uni digs, it's also a good idea to put together an essential survival kit of food that can be stored for a while and will keep them going until they figure out where their nearest supermarket is (and how to budget for the stuff they need from said supermarket). It's going to take some getting used to not having kitchen cupboards that magically re-stock themselves, so give them a decent 'safety net' of tins, noodles, micro rice, etc, while they get to grips with their new "Shit! Mum isn't here to feed me!" life. Don't forget to kick-start their stockpile with basic toiletries, medicines and laundry essentials too.
Basic supply suggestions
Part baked bread
Long life milk
Tomato ketchup (to cover up the burnt food taste)
Jar of Lazy Garlic
Cartons of passata
Stir in pasta sauces
Pasta bake jars
Tins of soup
Kitchen cleaner spray
Bathroom cleaner spray
Anti-bac surface cleaning wipes
Chat about budget
Thank goodness for the student loan, but it will still be necessary to have a serious talk about money before your teen heads off and blows the lot on food delivery apps. There's going to be a large sum of money hitting their bank account, so remind them and then remind them again that as tempting as it might be, that money is for them to live on NOT for a new state-of-the-art smart phone. Create a budget that allows for:
Rent and associated bills
Petrol (if they have a car) or travel
Savings (you can but only live in hope)
Have the difficult but essential talks
Yes, kids, it's totes 'cringe' to have to talk about this stuff with us 'old folk' but there are certain subjects that absolutely need to be spoken about no matter how uncomfortable they might seem. Talk about contraception, talk about consent, talk about relationships, talk about STI's and let them know that they can always come to you for advice.
Teach them some life skills
If our own teenager is anything to go by, if it doesn't have microwave instructions on the packet, they probably don't know how to cook a great deal beyond instant noodles. Teach them a few staple recipes in the hope that they might eat the odd vegetable while they're away from home. Start by making these easy peasy meals with them in the coming weeks, and then print out the recipes to take with them:
Spaghetti Bolognese: Spag bol is easy, tasty and always a dinner winner. Try this recipe by BBC Good Food. Show them how to make bigger batches so they can freeze into portions when they're doing it for themselves.
French Bread Pizza: Here's a fun and simple lunch idea that teens can definitely cope with! Have a look at this recipe by The Pioneer Woman for topping ideas.
Black Bean Chilli Burrito Bowl: Perfect for vegetarians, this yum meal does have a lot of ingredients, but once you've pulled them all together, construction literally takes minutes. Take a look at the recipe by The Vegetarian Society.
Shepherd's Pie: We're yet to meet a kid who doesn't like good old fashioned Shepherd's Pie. Get the teens on the case with this 'no fuss' recipe by BBC Good Food. Replace lamb with meat substitutes if you're vegetarian.
Chicken Pot Pie: Surprisingly easy to make, it's time to get the offspring familiar with making a decent pie. We especially love this one by Jamie Oliver.
Easy fried rice: Try this recipe by Serious Eats and let your kiddo know that micro rice is a great option when it comes to the rice part for this simple dish. Encourage them to whack some veggies, egg and anything else they fancy into the frying pan as they go along.
Flapjacks: These gooey treats by Liana's Kitchen are a sweet treat that even a teen can cope with making.
Smoothies: Tasty and easy to make, try these 10 different smoothie recipes with your teens so they can whip up a healthy little number for themselves once they're away from home.
Don't forget to also run through the importance of hygienic food preparation and storage! The last thing your teenager needs is a bout of food poisoning caused by storing their raw meat next to their cooked meat! This is stuff they are likely not to know...
It's not going to be easy for your teen to fit in and make friends in uni if their clothes smell and they look like they fell out of a bin: teach your child how to use a washing machine, how to separate lights from darks and how to hang wet washing so it dries properly (no, kids, it won't dry piled in the laundry basket once you've pulled it out of the machine). Ironing may be a step too far, but try and teach them anyway. Make sure you send them into their new home with:
Kudos to those of you with teenagers who already know all this!
Check out the advice facilities at their uni
All universities will have a range of help and support in all kinds of areas. Whether it's mental health or finance, careers or accommodation, there will be an advisor for everything. Check together what kind of advice options your child's uni has before they go. Knowing they have support where they're going will put their mind at ease - and yours!
Right then, they're all set, well practically anyway. Emotionally YOU might need a minute or two...
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