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How do I stop being a helicopter parent to my 17 yr old

(38 Posts)
PJ67 Sat 09-Sep-17 23:10:34

I know what I should do but really struggle to stop myself. My ds is 17 and just started uni. Staying at home, which is probably a bad idea but I have been way too over involved/obsessive with friends, exams etc over the years and its resulted in me having a very poor relationship with him. The more I have tried to control/interfere, the more defensive and secretive he has become and it's so upsetting.
I promised myself when he started uni I would back off and leave him to it but he's quite disorganised and only two days in I'm worrying that he hasn't taken any notes, doesn't seem to have a book list, hasn't made friends etc. I know it's all my fault but I'm really struggling not to go on and on about things but when I do he is saying it's none of my business, pushing me out of his room and we can't even talk about anything now.
I do have problems with anxiety and just can't seem to stop myself. I've already looked up his timetable and am worrying that he won't get to a 9am lecture on Monday. It doesn't help that he's been having doubts about the course so I'm even more anxious that he gives it a go.
I really know that I have to let him get on with it but can't seem to put it into practice. Anyone else like this and any tips for managing my own worries before it totally destroys our relationship.

Softlysad Sun 10-Sep-17 16:22:34

It's hard as you want the best for him. But to help your anxiety, ask yourself what is the worst thing that could happen if you do t nag him? He may miss a lecture - no big deal. Miss a few though and he'd hear about it from the tutors. He has to be allowed to make mistakes. You know that. What you don't know (or are too scared to see) is that it's ok. Not the worst thing in the world and recoverable from.
Stand back and try to enjoy your own life. He may stumble at first, but it's the only way he will ever become responsible for himself.

PotteringAlong Sun 10-Sep-17 16:24:46

Find him student accommodation. Get him to move out. I suspect it's the only hope for both of you.

humblesims Sun 10-Sep-17 16:26:28

You recognise the problem and that is half the solution. You MUST take a step back and that is the long and the short of it. Let him fuck up. Let him miss his lecture. Let him fall. He'll be OK, he'll learn. But he never will be if you dont take a step back. Your actions indicate (to him) that you dont trust him to be an independent adult.
Having said that....its really hard. I do know how you feel. I am not as anxious as you but I do find myself hovering and fussing unnecessarily. Mine is 18 and off to uni in about a week and I am writing lists of things he needs to remember (change pants every day, clean fingernails, charge phone). I know I'll give it to him and he'll chuck it straight in the bin but ho hum.
Can you talk to him and tell that you will try and step back. And then do step back. Ask him to tell you one thing he would like most for you to step away from and then start with that. (lots of stepping there sorry!)
Do you have other things to occupy your mind and distract you from worrying and fussing? do you have other DCs?
I have to hold my tongue a lot at the moment as mine is away in a weeks time and he hasnt even.......well hasnt done a whole load of things I think he should have but like I say....Its down to them now. smile

GreenTulips Sun 10-Sep-17 16:29:40

You need to start thinking about yourself first, go out make new friends get some hobbies and leave him be

How would you like another adult questioning you and your decisions constantly? I'd ignore you as well!

You will scarce I'm off for life at this rate!

Wolfiefan Sun 10-Sep-17 16:31:51

Sort your anxiety. Seek treatment.
Build your own life. Do you work? Have hobbies?
Maybe decide one point a week to chat over how things are going. Other than that you need to stay out of it.
He can't push you out of a room though. That's not on.

TwitterQueen1 Sun 10-Sep-17 16:31:58

I thought pottering was being harsh at first - until I read your post again OP.

Seriously, your DS needs to move out. His sanity, your sanity - and your anxiety will only suffer even more if he doesn't. You're worrying in case he doesn't make it to a 9am lecture? He has to grow up and you need to let him. Why wouldn't he make the lecture?

PJ67 Sun 10-Sep-17 16:44:58

Thanks for the replies. We spoke about accommodation way back and he said he would just stay at home but decided just before the term started last week that he would like to move out but all the halls were full. He's now saying he wouldn't want to join a flat late. I think it would be best for him and I don't know whether to encourage him if a place comes up. I think it would help him make friends as he's quite shy and obviously get away from our home situation but I'm also weighing up the £5000 + cost of halls when we live a 20 min walk from uni!
I work full time and have 2 younger dc's so quite busy but just get myself so preoccupied with what he's doing and because he's so disorganised I want to take over. This has pushed him away so much that he now refuses to tell me anything which makes me worse!

bluebannana Sun 10-Sep-17 16:45:01

I second wolfie focus on learning to manage your anxiety. My DM is pretty full on DB and I moved far away at first opportunity and haven't gone back. We love her but we need space. And DM is capable of smothering at several hundred miles distance. She can be quite controlling really as I've realisec through years of therapy. Thankfully she has got some for herself too to try to cope with letting go of us (we are both in our 30s and it's still an issue)

gamerchick Sun 10-Sep-17 16:48:36

God I couldn't be bothered. I rarely see my 17 yr old unless he frantically texting for me to wait up because he'll be locked out otherwise.

You can control what comes out of your mouth OP. Or if you can't shove a load of toffee in your gob when you feel tempted to interfere. He needs to learn on his own without you wiping his arse.

SisterhoodisPowerful Sun 10-Sep-17 17:00:28

You need support for your anxiety because he needs to learn to take responsibility for himself. He needs to learn the consequences of failing to take responsibility for his choices and he learns how to fail. You can not micro manage his life for him.

I have anxiety and a child at uni so I know how hard it can be to let them make mistakes, but part of being a parent is knowing when and how to let go.

bigbluebus Sun 17-Sep-17 14:04:49

If you always organise for him then he will remain disorganised as he will rely on you doing it! My DS is one of the most disorganised people I know. He also has ASD. He wouldn't set his alarm clock in the morning as he knew I would wake him up so didn't see the point. He also knew I would chase him up if there was a job that needed doing. We went away on holiday for 5 days. He then had to set his alarm and get himself to work on time - guess what? he managed it! And when we returned home he carried on doing it, because the habit had been broken.

He has just gone off to Uni and I was cleaning his room. I found an A4 piece of paper on which he had written himself a detailed itinerary for a trip to Europe he went on in the Summer. I have never known him plan anything in that level of detail before - so finally felt today that all my years of trying to get him to plan anything haven't been entirely wasted!

He needs to learn the hard way by learning the consequences of not taking responsibility for things himself. And as you work full time and have 2 other DC's, I'm surprised you can find the time to micro manage him TBH. You need to step back and let him get on with it.

LoniceraJaponica Sun 17-Sep-17 14:06:48

I didn't thinkUK universities took 17 year olds. DD is looking at medicine and they won't take anyone under 18.

dumbledore345 Sun 17-Sep-17 14:15:27

At 17 he has time on his side.

If he is having second thoughts about the course can he do a gap year in which he lives away from home?

Re-apply next year and get a place in hall.

kath6144 Sun 17-Sep-17 18:16:51

Lonicera, scottish children can start uni from 17

Op I have similar with my DD17, she has always been young for her age, but I have realised that if I dont pull back then I will push her away. It is hard, but we have got through the first week back at college without me interfering at all. I know she can do everything herself, but we have always babied her a little (youngest and had health problems when younger) and it is hard not to continue. Even giving her lifts to bus stop on days I am at home (which she used to expect) are off the agenda this year unless heavy rain. If she's late and misses bus, tough.

Others are correct, he may need to miss lectures etc to grow up a little, but he has to learn that himself.

My DD is doing a BTEC in Business, and had to resit English Language last year, including re doing all English coursework in 8 weeks. It transpired she was missing Business workshops and late with assignments due to concentrating on English. Like your DS, she was secretive, and it blew up in April when we were informed. She got through the year in Business, but learnt a valuable lesson that she couldn't just miss workshops or give assignments in late. She was told she would be on probation in Business with

Luckily she passed her English and can now concentrate on Business, she is already putting a lot of effort into writing up notes etc, so looks like this year will be better.

I do agree with others, he should move out.

kath6144 Sun 17-Sep-17 18:19:18

Oops missed a bit there. She is on probation with Business for first 4 weeks this year, which really shocked her.

PJ67 Sun 17-Sep-17 23:02:36

Thanks again for replies. I do agree that it would be best for him (and me) if he moved out. Halls are now full but he has put his name down so something may come up. He regrets not applying earlier which is a shame as the flatmates in halls will now have had time to get to know each other so it may still not be so easy for him?
Offered to buy him books for his course but he's not got any yet despite having a list and I'm desperately trying not to go on and on about it! I know you're all right though, if he fails because he hasnt got any books it will be a lesson for him, I just find it so hard to leave him to it.

LoniceraJaponica Mon 18-Sep-17 07:49:34

Stupid question alert.
Is the Scottish education system better than the English one? Children can start school later and go to university at 17. How can 17 year Scottish students be at the same level of learning as our 18 year olds? Do they cram more in? Or do they have shorter holidays?

saltandvinegarcrisps1 Mon 18-Sep-17 17:26:27

We do Highers over one year (age 16 to 17) so if they do well they can technically get the grades they need e.g. 5 A grade highers. Most stay on and do 6th year for the social side / do more highers. My friends DH went to Edinburgh uni and there was a 14 year old maths genius in the class (this was early 90s)

Tallia Tue 19-Sep-17 15:21:27

Leaving aside the issue that you need to back off slightly and let him work it out for himself most of your expectations are pretty unrealistic.

Books: Unless there's a book he's been told he NEEDS to buy immediately, most people won't buy books at the beginning of the term / many books at all. When I started uni we were told NOT to bother buying books initially. To wait until our course started and we worked out which books style suited us/ which parts of the syllabus interested us, though that may vary slightly for different courses. Plus for most (all?) courses the libraries will stock several copies of the most important texts - which will also be on short term loan so you never have to wait too long for one to become available (or some times nowadays you can access them online). I'm generally a bit keen so I bought more than my friends - I've got a handful of textbooks from my bachelors and bought a grand total of one book for my Masters - which I actually bought right at the end of the course - as it was one I'd found useful during the course so I wanted for future reference when I no longer had access to the library. From memory only one of the books I actually bought during my bachelors I used enough to make it worthwhile having bought it - it was for a module I missed almost all of the lectures for due to a health problem and having regular hospital appointments at the time of that module. University books are expensive so there's not a lot of point buying something you aren't going to use much.

Worrying about anything in the first few days is excessive - it will take a bit of time to start meeting people, but as he gets into his course/ joins clubs etc it will happen naturally. The best thing you can do is give him as much space as possible so he's free to participate in things as they crop up.

Also most universities are very aware of the fact that for most students it's their first time away from home/ being a bit more independent and are actually very supportive of that. The first few days tend to be mostly introductory type stuff anyway not really serious lectures.

Even if he has started serious lectures how do you even know he hasn't made notes? Are you checking all his notes? (That's crazy if you are!) Some people use laptops so won't have any pieces of paper, a lot of universities give electronic handouts/ copies of the slides so depending on personal preference/ how good the lecturer's slides are there might not be many notes to make (it also depends on learning style, some people learn better by sitting there concentrating on listening, others prefer to make notes)

Missing the odd 9 o'clock lecture isn't a big deal.
It's university - there's a reason there's a stereotype of students lying in and falling asleep during lectures. It will vary depending on his course/ university but my undergrad they used to take a register in each lecture - if you missed a few they'd chase you to find out why you were missing lectures. Ok you don't really want to start off that way, but you need to leave him alone to work it out, if he misses it/ is late, he'll soon work out what he needs to do to get there on time.

Often the first year doesn't count towards the final degree anyway - I know quite a few people who didn't do very well the first year, either because it took them a bit of time to adjust or they just didn't bother, but at the end of the year exams realised they needed to knuckle down and got it together for the second and third year.

So really don't worry quite so much. Most people do fine, and part of the learning experience of university is learning to deal with things yourself/ being independent - and frankly if it doesn't suit him, then that's not the end of the world - and once he knows that he can work out what does suit him.

I'd definitely encourage him to move out (if you/he can afford it), it's a lot easier to get on with what you need to/ start managing your own time when you don't have a parent breathing down your neck the whole time

eyebrowsonfleek Tue 19-Sep-17 15:25:24

I think that Scottish uni is for 4 years rather than England's 3 so first year at Scottish uni = y13 in England.

pambeesley Tue 19-Sep-17 15:27:57

The best way to make friends at uni is probably through clubs and there are hundreds of them.

Maybe suggest this to him. But let him sort his day to day stuff out like his books etc.

Catinthecorner Tue 19-Sep-17 15:48:08

Halls are pretty fluid for the first few weeks. People drop out, or find other living arrangements, other people move in. If he genuinely wanted to live in halls and a space comes up encourage him to take it. He'll be the new guy for a day or two at most and he'll be living there for almost a year.

inchyrablue Tue 19-Sep-17 15:54:50

Lonicera it is not unheard of for DC to be 16 when they start uni in Scotland. Because the school year intake is different, it is possible for someone leaving 5th year (=Y12) with a full set of good highers, but whose birthday isn't till November or December to be heading off to uni. Most don't (DH nearly did but had a last minute change of heart). But it does happen!

LoniceraJaponica Tue 19-Sep-17 19:40:08

So does that mean that someone who has done A levels in England and goes to a Scottish university at 18 may have a slight advantage over a Scottish 17 year old who has just finished the equivalent of year 12?

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