Your grade 12 child being accepted into university is both exciting and nerve wrecking – soon you will be the parent of a university student! But, apart from which course and which university to go to, there are other things to think about:
1. Tertiary education – it’s going to cost a lot!
I know this probably isn’t news to you but work on your budgeting and do your homework before your child leaves school. We all know we should, but that doesn’t mean we’ve actually done it already. Tuition fees and study materials are obvious costs. But hidden costs abound: daily transport to and from university, data and cell phone costs, computer costs or accessibility, and what about if your child studies away from home? All of the above costs go up substantially compared to living at home before you even look at accommodation and food costs.
Sit down and do a budget as if this was you leaving for university – haircuts, coffee out, a lunch on the go, stationery, insurance for laptops and cellphones…
Be realistic and face these issues together with the student-to-be, before your child has left school. You or your child don’t want to be left in dire circumstances half way through the first year of university, or find that results won’t be released by the university as fees are not paid.
You also can’t expect your to sit at home while their friends go out. You yourself would be going out on lunch and dinner dates. Remember to include a decent entertainment allocation in your budget. University is about the overall experience after all.
Knowledge is Power!
2. Grade 12 Decision-making time – Is it your choice or your child’s choice?
The debate can go all ways but it is suffice to say that there are 101 ways to live a life and that no one way is perfect. Allow your child to make mistakes and know that no education is wasted. You are there to guide and help shift gears.
No matter what your opinion is on your child’s course or university choice, it requires support from all parties involved -parents, extended family and friends.
Some children are more complying than others. Be sensitive to this and to your own nature. If you are normally pushy, take time to step back to see how your child approaches the decision. Give them credit by allowing them to move through with their own strategy.
Numerous studies show that your opinion counts the most with your child. So do not fear, your opinion will be weighing in on the decision process. Just remember not to confuse them too much in some situations.
Talk to other parents, and especially parents and graduates whose opinion you value. Do your research online, and educate yourself. There are many discussion forums and on line help-groups which you can look through and turn to for support. Acknowledge the dynamics of your relationship with your child, each relationship will be different, and let them know that they can confide in you without expecting judgement or criticism.
Now is not the time to be a manipulative parent! Too many parents use bullying tactics, and though the intention is with a good and caring heart, you are sending a unconscious message that your child is not competent enough to make his or her own decisions.
3. Grade 12 Parents: Be realistic about university expectations with your child.
You need to come to terms with this – your child will want to go out and enjoy the university experience. This doesn’t automatically mean that they have fallen off the wagon.
There will be courses that your child finds boring or irrelevant. For many students, this is a shock and they immediately believe they are doing the wrong degree. Not so! Just as in life, no matter how much you enjoy what you are doing; there are always parts which we won’t enjoy.
A university student is still a teenager and will exaggerate perceptions. Make sure you are giving a balanced view of your expectations for your child when they go to university – hard work, good fun and responsibilities -like getting laundry done, keeping your space clean and neat, maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
If you have been to university, talk to your child about ALL aspects of university, not just the fun times you had.
If you have not been to university, spend time on the internet searching WITH your child, about the changes and what is expected of them. Or find someone you trust to talk to about the realities of university life with your child, be it a teacher from his school, or a relative or friend.
You don’t want to have a situation where halfway into your child’s first year at university, he or she is having second thoughts because it’s not all as fun as everyone has said, or that being an adult with responsibilities is not all it’s cut out to be, or they’ve failed the first semester of courses and loose the plot of why he or she is there in the first place!
4. Re-enforce and foster the virtue of honesty.
“What on earth has this got to do with my child going to university?” I hear you ask, and “Isn’t it a bit late if I have not already taught my child this trait?”
This will be the first time your child will be responsible for themselves entirely, and university will bring many challenges where their perception of right and wrong are solely sitting with them. This covers things like preventing plagiarism in assignments, lying about preparations for a task, or telling you the truth about his or her drinking habits.
The effects at university (and as they enter adulthood) can be enormous with long-term consequences. Without any exaggeration, your child can be removed from university. In their personal life, it can affect friendships and reputation, and the loss of respect and trust in their home life.
Sit down and have a talk about this as a family. Talk about accountability, self-awareness, and possible consequences.
Many professors talk about the ethical struggles they often find themselves in where they have suspicions that students are committing plagiarism but who don’t want to ‘catch’ a student out. There needs to be a mutual understanding and acceptance of trust and honour amongst all parties: student, professors, and parents.
Solid steps towards good citizenship.
5. Prepare yourself for your own future of no longer being a full-time parent
The more energy you have invested into parenting the soon-to-be student, the greater your sense of loss will be.
Re-direct these energies into something you have been putting off for a while, like seeing to your own well-being. This is not to say you are hanging up the proverbial parent towel, but rather that you will now have some energy that can be focused on yourself or perhaps another area of your life that has been left wanting, e.g. starting a hobby or volunteering.
Set some time aside to meditate or plan your next step.
Although you and your child will both be experiencing changes, it will be easier for them to cope, as they will be sucked into life at university.
You will be the one with a gap that needs to be filled. Research by Celia Dodd’s, author of Empty Nest: How to Survive and Stay Close to your Adult Child, shows that couples who have done things for themselves before their children go to university, are more likely to thrive.
At this stage, you may need to remind your child to hand in forms in time, or he or she may seem clueless and unmotivated, but at the end of the day, the final Matric exam will be written and decisions have to be made before then. Prepare yourselves as best you can, and slowly but surely take a back seat and allow them to become adults.
It’s bitter-sweet for you as the parent but the truth is: the better prepared you are, the easier it will be for your child to move forward and focus on his or her own life.
Education is power.
Learning to let go of something you love and treasure is really difficult, especially when it comes to your children. Luckily you know the way you have raised them and the values you have taught them throughout the year. So take a step back and relax knowing that you raised them well and they will make the best decisions for themselves. The time has come for you to take up hobbies again!