son just gone to uni(27 Posts)
Does anyone have experience or advice about a son who's experiencing friendship problems at uni? My son is in his first year and he had a great first few weeks but now he's being teased a lot, or feels he is, and he's becoming very unhappy. His friends seem to make him the butt of the group's jokes a lot, and they keep getting into his room and messing with his things; he's tried to react with good humour but it's really getting him down. Should I just stay out of this and let him find his own way through, or should I advise him to talk to a student counsellor or what? I may be overreacting; he was bullied a lot at school and he's quite a young 18. I don't want to be a helicopter mum, but I don't want to leave him to flounder if I can do something to help. Reading this back I sound really really anxious and maybe too interfering; I definitely don't want to over-react but I am a bit worried.
That sounds awful. I would be worried too. Does he have a tutor or mentor he could confide in?
If the person doesn't like it, it's bullying, end of.
Thanks dingit, I kind-of feel better just knowing it's not just me. Not that I'm bothered about me, it's my poor son who's going through it. I think I'll try and find out what the uni offers in the way of student support.
they keep getting into his room and messing with his things
It's what they do, I'm afraid. Tell him to be more careful about locking his room. (I know this sounds like victim blaming but they are going to pick on the unlocked room.)
Does his Halls have some sort of Residential Adviser? They can give more immediate and pertinent advice than Uni-wide student support (eg they may know someone else in same Halls who could also do with a buddy).
Hi senua Thanks I'm sure you're right, it's part of being a fresher I've told him to be super-careful from now on, he thinks his door lock might be slightly dodgy. Thanks for your thoughts.
Is that his 'in'? He goes to talk to the RA about the dodgy lock and subtly turns the conversation to his room being messed with which then goes on to general friendship problems.
Madabout, I know this is not the main issue here, but it might encourage DS to go and see about his lock. DS said to me his student insurance is invalid if his door isn't locked whilst he is not in his room. I know that is not your real worry but might be (along Senua's line) an easier reason for him to go and ask someone about the lock. I hope things improve for him, I can understand your worry.
Thanks Sensua, I will explore that idea with him diplomatically ... Regards
I would advise him to join lots of different groups and societies. Widen his friendship network, so he won't always be beholden to a few people.
Good suggestion, and also an important point I hadn't thought of. Bullying is so difficult at any age, and always so hard to define: what's one person's joke is someone else's nightmare. I hoped all this would stop when he went to uni ... hopefully things will blow over. Thanks everyone
Definitely second the idea to join lots of societies. He's bound to make a much wider circle of friends that way.
My son went through something similar in 6th form. He was in a really tight knit group of good friends. All were nice lads but my son and his friend always seemed to be the butt of the other's jokes. My son was fine with it - saw it as banter and gave as good as he was given, back. The other boy however, hated it even though he laughed it off to start with. He confided in my son who had a word with the others in the group and they were upset that they'd made him feel this way and hadn't realised. I know these boys had been friends longer but do you think it could be a similar situation and does he feel able to talk to them?
I get the impression my son has tried that and the others think he is making a fuss (which he may be, I'm not sure). Your thoughts and those of some others on this thread are making me realise he needs to work on forming more friendships - a clique can be a very tricky thing esp when it's 24/7. I know my son's not perfect btw - I just feel sad he's gone from loving uni to counting down the days to the end of term. It's just brilliant to be able to chat here, I felt really isolated until I started this thread.
It's hard to let go. My dd is year 12, I'm dreading her going off to uni and not being there for her. I hope your ds gets it sorted out, at least he has a lovely mum to confide in
Does he know who he wants to live with in 2nd year? They've usually decided by january.
My ds got on ok with his 1st year flatmates but went to live with a totally different group in year 2 (and they're still sharing in yr 3).
They just get bunged in with a group of randoms in 1st year so it's not at all unusual for them to part company in the June.
The important thing is that he socialises a lot outside his flatmate group.
You're spot on; he's just signed the lease to share with these friends and now perhaps they're beginning to spread wings and wish they hadn't rushed to decide for next year. I guess things are bound to swop about - I definitely need to let go!!! It's really hard when they can text and phone so easily, as I end up hearing about things which might have blown over if we hadn't spoken for a few days. Not sure about the lovely mum 18 years and I still feel like a beginner!
Thanks again for the tips about finding new/more friends, I'm sure that's key.
Others have made good points here OP.
I suspect the main issue is he's carrying those horrible experiences from school. . They may be bullies, they may just be arses who can't see their idea of ' bants' ( I hate that term) is another's idea of hell.
Do get him to get the lock sorted. (insurance as well as privacy!).
Often kids who have been bullied aren't very good with being assertive... So you may need to practise a few responses wirh him... He knows what they'll probably respond best to.
If these are 'friends' that are just immature... A light refrain from your son e.g '' hi guys- I know it was funny to play jokes in my room , but I want you to stop coming into my room when I'm not there ! ' (He shouldn't have to give reasons... It needs to be unambiguous), should nip it in the bud.
If it doesn't, he then can escalate it, in writing, copying in accomodation/tutors whoever .... If it's uni accommodation people can be thrown out for this type of behaviour. That should concentrate their minds...
Oh yes... If it doesn't calm down immediately, he needs to put feelers out for other pals to share with next year... Few people ime end up living with the same folk for 3 years....
Definitely widen his friendship group as you say. . .. He can make himself a goal of trying out a new group every week.... I was out and about from week 1 at uni... I kicked myself when I met folk from my course in the last 6 months of my degree who I got along with like anything, but it was a huge course 500+,so we had just missed eachother! May be even worth going along to stuff he may not initially get excited over... But it's the folk you meet doing it!
How worrying for you . The upside is that at least he feels comfortable enough to tell you about it.
Id advise you to treat his complaints seriously, even if you can't help that much the fact that you are listening and sympathizing will help him.
Has he thought about changing accommodation?
OP, if it's really bothering him (and you sound so sensible, with your observation that it can be hard to tell, given that communications are so easy now, whereas once, it was just the weekly 'phonecall) suggest he speak to his personal tutor (if he's at a university that has one) or his regular tutor if not. They'll be able to help him or signpost him where to get help.
It's a good point PP have made about getting him to go to whoever it is responsible for sorting out his lock - that might well lead on to other discussions. And also the advice about societies etc - unfortunately, freshers always feel a huge responsibility to sort out their accommodation so early, but if he has friends from a wider sphere, it will be easier for him to swap out if it turns out to be necessary.
I suspect, though, what's going on is that it's a bunch of insensitive blokes away from home for the first time and not realising how hurtful they are being - after all, it's just "banter"... combine that with someone who has already been bullied, and it can be a tricky combination. I think it sounds like he's handling it in the right way - but opening up the friendship group can only help.
I was dumped, quite horribly, by all my 'friends' at the end of my first term of uni.
I remember sitting in the entrance hall feeling completely inconsolable that first day back in January as the truth dawned on me. Someone who vaguely recognised me from a musical thing we did picked up on that, invited me to her room, and 15 years later we're still good friends. Through her and her connections I made loads more friends, got the confidence to meet others, realised my ex friends were the 'clique', and by the end of my time at university had met my future DH.
That day in January though was the worst ever... Hope your son can get involved with other things.
Thanks so much for that; really really helpful. I feel quite overwhelmed today - my first attempt to ask advice of other Mumsnetters and I'm so glad I did. I think you are dead right about the blokey banter stuff and the bullying back story. Tonight my son sounds quite resolute, if a bit subdued, and I'm impressed he is sticking to his guns and telling these lads he doesn't accept it's acceptable to trash his room - they've tried to say he's lacking a sense of humour. I feel as though he must be learning to stand up to bullying, banter, whatever, in a more mature and effective way than he did when he was younger. I guess a bit of this is just growing up - they are all very young and finding themselves. Thanks again, mega.
What a devastating experience Jenijena; so glad it worked out for you. I used to work in a uni, and never imagined this sort of thing going on - how naïve.
Thanks to all the lovely thoughtful Mumsnetters who have replied to my post today.
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