Education: Lending a helping hand

You may feel helpless when your son or daughter goes away to start university, but there's lots you can do to support them.
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Indy Lifestyle Online
For the parent of a young person just starting a university or college course, there can be a tangible sense of loss, compounded by a sense that there's little that you can do to help them when they are so far away. Of course, with the advent of fees, abolition of grants and the general high costs of living, many parents will be supporting their children financially in some form on a regular basis.

There is, of course a world of difference between a regular cheque and "being there" for your kids. It may seem that there is little you can do to help from so far away, but you can do things that'll make their first tentative weeks and months so much easier to bear.

Phone home with a card

Many a new student is going to be desperate to stay in touch with old friends in those first lonely and confusing weeks. And yes, they'll want to phone home too. As phone bills are the scourge of students, make life easier and provide them with a phone card to use in the first few days or weeks - depending on how much time they spend on your phone.

Travel on a card

Most students go home at some stage during the first term they are at university or college, or visit friends in other parts of the country. Travel is one of the most expensive items for any student, so a railcard for their wallet or purse before you leave is a great help. Also, it is a good idea to get them their first month's travelcard for the city's buses and trains. Anything that can cut costs in the first hectic month is wonderful.

Kitting out the kitchen

The days when granny sent a regular food parcel are long gone, but you can help them stay in hot nosh with a sandwich maker. It also really helps if you can provide kitchenware, especially a kettle, cups, plates, cutlery, a few pots and pans - not too much, but enough so they can entertain.

Nag them on the basics

Do the real parent thing and remind them as they are packing to include the practical, boring stuff - an alarm clock, bed sheets, towels, some stamps, passport photos (for course registration, NUS cards, etc), a good set of stationary and enough pants and socks!

Keep in touch, and visit

Finally, and most importantly, keep in touch and visit them occasionally. A phone call can make all the difference sometimes. So if you haven't spoken for a while, call them anyway. A visit lets you see for yourself how they're living, how they are, and allows them to show you around their new world. Don't show up every weekend, but don't go awol either. You're still a massive part of their world, even if they're so far away exploring a new life.

Then it's down to them

The rest is up to them. But student life isn't like being at home. The bird may have flown the nest, but are always things you can do to ease its new life.



Word processor or computer


Mugs for giving your friends coffee


Plates for giving your friends slices of toast


Bed linen - snuggle up in your own duvet


A personal stereo or CD player


Your favourite cuddly toy


Posters for decorating the walls


A phone card - call your folks for free


Mobile phone - call your mates from a club


Hair gel for the boys, nail polish for the girls