It’s a new year and for some parents and their children a new life and a whole new world! If your young adult started third level education in Autumn 2023, they’ll be embarking on their second semester shortly which can be daunting or exciting depending on their experience last term.
Parents of newly going college kids will have had to adjust to new routines and lifestyles for the last few months because it’s a world of difference from life in secondary school, when parents were still, albeit on the sidelines, monitoring their young adults’ lives to a certain extent.
Some students find adjustments easy. They throw themselves into college social life. Others have trouble settling into courses or find the independence a little overwhelming, isolating or lonely. It’s no surprise then that we as parents can also find this new stage daunting, especially for those whose brood moved away from home.
Change is good for us all but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. If you’ve been through it before, that helps but it’s still important to remember that every individual experiences life changes differently.
As parents we never stop worrying. We want our adult children to do well academically, make new friends, get involved in activities and have a bit of fun along the way but we have to trust them to make their own way. However, it can be difficult to take a back seat on your child’s educational journey.
Someone who knows the difficulties of transitioning from second level to third level education is Semra Abdulahovic Smith, a senior student support officer and student advice manager in Dublin City University (DCU).
“We often get calls from parents concerned about the welfare or academic participation or the suitability of their son/daughters chosen course’, said Semra. “However, this information is confidential. Legally once a student is over 18 years of age, information about their college life, even medical issues, cannot be discussed with third parties”, she added.
Parents can help by familiarising themselves with the College websites to view the range of facilities and services available and have conversations at home together directing students to engage with services themselves should the need arise.
Every college, university and educational institution has a student welfare office with support services and workshops in place. These are advertised and promoted throughout the college on Fresher week before their course commences and throughout the year on posters and online advertisements on their student online account or app highlighting the available talks and services. Student Support & Development in DCU is comprised of several units and is typical of the student services available in most institutions.
Autism Friendly Services
Careers Services – including changing courses
DCU Care & Connect (this is a whole-of-university approach to positive mental and physical health and student wellbeing)
Mental Health and Well-being Services
Counselling & Personal Development Services
Disability & Learning Support Services
Health Services Now she is dependent on him sharing his news and views with her.
Ciara O’Leary, a Mum of four children ranging in age from 18 to 3 years of age felt a range of emotions when her eldest son Cian started College last Autumn. She was delighted he achieved the points for his college course, but it was poignant also with the realisation that as a Mum, her role in his life was changing with her firstborn moving closer to becoming an independent young man. Ciara said she missed the email updates she received from his secondary school keeping parents up to date with school life. Now she is dependent on him sharing his news and views with her.
Ciara proactively encourages Cian to chat and discuss concerns with her and says that listening rather than advising is key to good communication. Cian has shared that it’s much harder to raise a hand and ask questions in a packed lecture theatre than it was in a small classroom last year.
"It should be more like two adults talking together now’ said Ciara. ‘If they share, listen to them and try to stand back and let them make little mistakes. It’s the only way they can learn.” she added.
Ciara had felt nervous on Cian’s behalf too that he was attending a new place on his own having gone through playschool, primary and secondary Schools with the same group of friends.
This is where College Societies come into their own. There are a range of societies that students can join to meet like-minded people and make friends. Trinity College in Dublin has over 120 societies for example, all of which are run by students for students so for fans of alternative music, sports, knitting, volunteering, debating, chess or pot-holing to name but seven of them, students are encouraged to find their own community.
Remember these institutions want the best for your young adults, their students, too. Their goal is not only to educate but to encourage students to thrive and enjoy their 3rd level experience to the maximum, while endeavouring to reach their full potential in the process.
They are the professionals and know it’s not one size fits all. If students need help, it’s available, they just have to look for it.