A UBC student offers five tips for parents new to the university experience
The first year of university is an exciting, emotional, awkward, eye-opening and anxious time for new students. It can also be hellish for their parents and guardians as they deal with their reactions to a child’s newfound independence.
This is all too familiar to Derrick Gravener, a 19-year-old UBC Arts student entering second year. The Sociology major offers five handy tips to ease novice parents through this time of trial and transition.
1. Be open about finances and expectations
It’s important to have frank discussions about where the money for tuition, rent and expenses will come from, and talk about how to manage finances throughout the year.
Before his first year at university, Gravener sat down with his parents and crafted a budget based on his finances, and together they decided on who would pay for what.
“Parents need to give students the financial freedom to spend money on frivolous items like fast food and coffee, but also be there to remind them about things like bill payments,” he says.
2. Embrace change
“Be prepared for change,” Gravener says. “New influences, courses and clubs are all a part of a student’s everyday life. Your child might pick up a new way of dressing, a new hairstyle, a new diet regime or political cause. Their vocabulary may change as they learn new topics.
“You have to accept that this is a time of transition for them. As they mature, so might your relationship with them. You’re starting on a path to a new adult relationship.”
3. Strike a balance between support and space
It’s tricky for parents to know when to give their child personal space and when to be there for guidance. New students often struggle to find their independence, and parents should give them the freedom to succeed or fail so they can learn from the consequences of their actions.
And if things happen to go awry, some words of encouragement go a long way.
“As a university student you want to act like an adult and do it all on your own, but you realize at the end of the day you still need your parents’ support and encouragement,” says Gravener.
4. Be supportive of grades and classes
University is not high school, and a new student’s grades may look different than previous report cards. Parents should also understand that universities expect first-year students to make their own decisions about course selection and study habits.
And with hundreds of course options at UBC, it may take a while for students to discover their interests and strengths.
“What’s important is to support them as they navigate their academic life,” he says. “They may not be picking the courses you’d want them to, and they may change their minds a few times, but trust that they will learn from these decisions.”
5. Cook them their favourite meal when they’re home
Your student may be a young adult, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need to come home for a little comfort and the childhood memories of a favourite meal.
“I feel like a special guest at home when my mom makes me macaroni and cheese from scratch,” Gravener says. “It’s like a warm hug on the inside.”