How I Helped my Daughter Transition from Dorm Life to Living on Her Own
By Sara Dimerman
After my younger daughter’s first year away in residence at university, I thought that we were pretty much done with questions such as, “How long after the best before date can I keep yogurt?” and “When should I choose ‘permanent press’ on the washing machine?” However, after she moved into a house with four other girls for her second year away from home, I learned that there were many more questions to come – such as how to make hot chocolate on the stove like the way I make it for her at home.
And I continued to encourage them because being able to ask for direction when you’re not sure what to do is an indication that you’re not ashamed to show that you don’t know everything there is to know, especially when living alone.
I think it’s great that students living in residence during their first year away at university buy meal plans. This way, at least parents know that their teens won’t be starving or having to worry about what to buy and make for meals. Especially in addition to adjusting to living independently and managing time and responsibilities like never before – laundry and getting themselves up in the morning, for example.
By the time second year rolls around, most students are tired of cafeteria food and showing a great deal more appreciation for home-cooked meals when they come back to their nest for visits. However, many are not quite prepared for the effort it takes to think about what they need to put into their fridge and cupboard (often only on one or two of the assigned shelves), making time to shop for those ingredients and then cutting and cooking them up, after a long day of classes. Even though my daughter has an interest in cooking (and often sends pictures so that she and her dad – the cook in our family – can compare their creations), she often lacks the energy or space required to cook a meal for herself. So, we agreed to pay for weekly meals in a box ( three at a time which allows for six dinners over the course of a week) which still means that she has to prepare the food, but this saves her the time of shopping for as many ingredients, teaches her to follow a recipe and to experiment with food choices, and there is so much less waste since the ingredients are measured out specifically for the recipe she has chosen.
In first year, she had a private room, so she didn’t have to worry about offending a roommate if she chose to leave dirty clothes or dishes (from eating snack items on) around her room. Now that she shares a house with others, she can still maintain her room as she sees fit, but there’s something to be said for sharing common areas of a house with people who are not family members. Ironically, she keeps her room away more organized than when she comes home for visits. She’s acknowledged that this is because she lets her hair down, so to speak, and likes not having to think about keeping on top of everything. She appreciates when I make her breakfast, or tidy her bed or even offer to wash her laundry because it’s a break from having to be so uber self-reliant the rest of her time away from home. She even suggested, half-jokingly, that we, along with the rest of her housemate’s parents, should create a schedule for times at which we should visit and prepare them all a feast! (And, I imagine, clean up afterwards.)
So, as second year comes to a close (much sooner than it did in elementary or secondary school), I am reminded that despite all the knowledge – both academic and practical – that my daughter has acquired over the past two years, and no matter how much more independent and grown up she appears, it’s nice to know that coming home is appreciated and that she can still turn to us for answers as she continues to grow.
Sara Dimerman, a psychologist and author, released her fifth book, Don’t Leave, Please Go: what you (and your teen) need to know before heading to university or college on May 7, 2019. After keeping a journal during her daughter’s first year away in residence at university, Don’t Leave, Please Go chronicles what they learned along their journey and helps you to know what to expect, too. For more information or to order a copy of Don’t Leave, Please Go, visit www.dontleavepleasego.com or www.helpmesara.com