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Worried about student DD(16 Posts)
Not sure if this is the right place to post but it's a good one for sympathetic advice, so...
I suffer from social anxiety and in consequence lead a very solitary life (not in the UK, by the way). I've brought up my DD, now 18, with some help from her father, who finds being sociable much easier than I do—but he didn't help nearly as much as I'd hoped in terms of taking her out and making sure she spent time around people, though the two of them get on well.
When she was about 15 she got depressed because she hated her school, but at first insisted she'd stick it out. After a year I couldn't bear it any more and neither could she and she agreed to swap schools. She did well academically and made new friends (one of her original reasons for not switching schools was that she'd have to make friends all over again; she is shy, though not as shy as me, though her father likes to insist she's perfectly confident).
One thing about her friendships, though, is that a lot of them were conducted entirely at school and online. Also she has few female friends. She would happily go to a party or gathering if someone else suggested it (and go in alone—I'd die!) but there were only two people she would ever invite to visit our (perfectly presentable) home and then only rarely.
Anyway she started at uni in the UK this term and at first seemed to have made friends with a few other international students and her flatmates (she lives on campus). But now she's complaining about not being able to sleep—she got two hours sleep on Thursday, for instance, and worries about sleeping through her alarms, and gets up late so she can't go for a run in the mornings as she'd started doing (which of course also affects her mood).
We were talking yesterday and it seems basically she doesn't do much except study, cook and shop for necessities, all of that alone as far as I can see. I'd hoped she'd do the things you can do in a big city and go out with friends sometimes. But she stopped seeing the international students (who are on a different campus); and now it seems she and her flatmates only hang out if they happen to be cooking at the same time; and she says she talks to some of her classmates but they're not friends. She had started looking for yoga classes but says the ones on campus are for beginners & classes elsewhere are too expensive. She runs by herself when she can, and isn't the sort of person to join societies or hang out in a student bar—she won't do it if she's not interested in the activity, and doesn't get it when I say the point is to meet people.
So it seems she's only just managing and I'm worried about her getting lonely without even knowing it—because as I said her upbringing was so solitary—and getting depressed again (the sleep thing really worries me). I don't want to suggest more therapy because I don't want her to think there's something "wrong" with her.
If I try to suggest other activities I'm accused of being a helicopter mother.
But I really wanted her to enjoy the experience of student life and city life, not just plod through it alone doing necessary tasks (which is pretty much how my life is & more or less always has been).
Her father suggests she's a happy introvert (I don't know what that's like: I think I 'm a literally hopelessly shy and hence lonely and miserable extrovert) but she doesn't give the impression of being especially happy, and I think he's also trying to dodge any responsibility or having to try to help. If I try to talk to him about her he usually laughs at me for making a fuss about nothing.
Am I worrying too much/over-identifying with her, or spotting signs that other people wouldn't because I've been there myself? Is there anything I can do to help? Especially at this distance? I thought of e-mailing her with some suggestions for getting out and meeting more people and also making her aware of what student life can be like at its best, but she may just resent that or it might make things worse if she feels she can't manage it.
She may genuinely be happy as she is. Some people are just happy with their own company.
Maybe suggest that she sees if the uni has a running club and she may meet people that way, alternatively she may not make new friends but it could help keep her happy as it sounds like this is something she enjoys, Or alternatively most unis have clubs for overseas students (which I'm assuming she is), and encourage her to join them. They will have lots of people in her situation (far away from home etc)
Lesser that sounds like my first term at uni and I don't think it is that unusual to take a bit of time finding your feet at uni, after the first initial mad rush. Especially for your DD who is adjusting to a different country as well as the change from school life to student life.
Over time I found more friends on my wavelength (actually met my best uni friend on the last day of the first term) and learnt about the people I liked and who liked me. I would suggest leaving your DD to resolve it herself just now while providing love and support from afar. Do you have any family in the UK? Can they invite your DD to spend the odd weekend away from uni as a break? Is she coming "home" for Christmas? Perhaps you will be able to judge better if you actually see her?
Didn't want to read and run.
There's a lot of pressure for uni to be all go, all the time. I had some friends who liked being on their own most of the time, joining in when they felt like it. if your daughter is happy spending some time on her own, that's fine.
However, it seems as though she is making some excuses not to socialise and making friends doesn't happen without effort. A lot of societies have socials as well.
Please don't think I'm just assuming anything your situation here, just trying to help from your comments. But I think you are projecting some of your own fears here. Not everyone has to be the life and soul of the party and some of the ones who are are not exactly the happiest- some of the people who I knew, like this, at uni turned out to be extremely unhappy with a number of issues going on.
I would let your daughter come to you here. Friendships etc. do develop at uni and it's good to give her time to do this.
Also, it sounds like she has some anxiety in terms of alarms etc. and CBT through her GP is great for this.
Is she actually unhappy though? Maybe she is happy with her own company - an admirable trait.
I'm a happy introvert.
I spent my entire teenage years with my mother badgering me to socialise more, invite people over, etc.
Truth is, school was more contact with others than I wanted, and I relished every chance to spend some time by myself.
She is now old enough to figure things out for herself, and find her own balance of contact with other people. Leave her to it, you cannot make things better by interfering but you can most definitely make them worse.
I'd be curious to know if she was happy or not too, some people just are. If she's happy leave it.
Student social life isn't all it's cracked up to be. It's not constant freshers week, My daughter is in her second year of a heavy workload degree and she goes out once a week on average, the rest of the time she's working or in the library. And she's plenty social, it's the workload that's the issue as well as finances, they can't all afford to do it more often.
As said, if she is unhappy then that's the time to see what you can do, but if she's not, then let her be.
Thanks—as I said, I don't think she is happy, it's usually obvious when she is. And the sleep disturbances are worrying too.
I don't want to suggest any kind of therapy because she's had therapy already and I don't want her to start thinking she's "the problem" or a freak.
If I tried to talk to her about it she'd clam up. Should I e-mail her and make some gentle suggestions? Eg maybe see the doctor about her severe sleep problems (and maybe they'd help if they think unhappiness is at the root of that)? Or that she try joining one or two things for the sake of meeting people, not necessarily because she's keen on the activity?
I would suggest she tries to get some counselling, lots and lots of students need help (and often struggle to get it). She really does need to get some support if she needs it.
Sorry, OP, but reading your posts it feels like you are projecting your own anxiety onto your DD. If she studies, cooks (=eats healthily) and goes for a run now and then (=exercises), then she's largely ok. The sleep issue will go when she gets really tired; if not, it'll need to be looked at, but did she say why she was not sleeping? Maybe it was noise, etc.? As for socialising, that's an optional extra, not something warranting therapy if someone isn't into it
Could she study nearer to home and stay living at home? It does sound like she is similar in personality to you & possibly doesn't want the whole 'student life' shebang. Not everyone wants that sort of life & she may just want the qualification without the other stuff. As others have said she could well find her feet in a few weeks time (once the others have sobered up a bit)
I agree that you may be putting your own anxieties onto your daughter. Sleep disturbance can be part of being a new student. My own dd was the same for the first few months. The fact that your daughter is cooking healthy meals, exercising and attending her studies is all good. I'm a happy introvert and would be doing exactly what your dd is doing. Tell her you're proud of her, that you are always there for her if she has any problems or concerns and then allow her to have some space. The constant suggestions, while meant well, could be making your dd feel down.
I know I project my own anxieties onto her, but sometimes that's to counteract her father taking the opposite attitude when in fact she does have a problem.
She'll be home in a few weeks so I guess if I can restrain myself from offering unwanted advice till then I can see how she seems and whether she really seems to be managing.
Thank you, all.
My ds started uni this year. For the first few weeks, freshers, he was out all the time, spending time with his flat mates and parties in other flats. Now they've settled down he rarely sees his flat mates and has hardly socialised with them. He's starting to make new friends, who are on his course rather than halls. Your post re socializing/friends mirrors my ds's first months.
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