Preparing Your Child for University, Living Abroad and Real Life

Futures are hanging in the balance. Can you feel it?

It’s that time of year where parents and teenage children lodge applications with universities. Students are having to think ahead and prepare for tertiary studies in 2021. And at the same time, they’re studying for their final school exams. To say it’s a busy time is an understatement. We’re going through it right now with our youngest. And just when we thought we couldn’t fit anymore on our plate, we realised we need to make room for one more thing: have we prepared him, supported him, been there for him enough as those adult decisions and choices lie directly ahead of him? It’s a daunting thought. How can 18 long years of feeding, bathing, clothing, educating and guiding suddenly be reduced to a few short months of cramming to make sure we’ve passed on the right values and skills to make it in this modern and daunting world?

Sending them off into the great unknown from here in Singapore often means seeing them get on a plane and relocate to another part of the world. A Pandora’s box of questions spills forward (that we try not to say out loud all at once!) …

Do you know how to:

  • open a bank account
  • sort out medical insurance
  • find somewhere to live
  • vet the people you’re going to live with
  • get a phone
  • use said phone to dial home at a regular time each week so we can check you’re still alive
  • cook a meal
  • get a credit card and more importantly manage credit card debt
  • make friends
  • drink responsibly
  • avoid bad situations
  • ask for consent
  • ask for help
  • study!!!
  • Make friends, be safe, call home (oh I’ve mentioned those already)


There’s so much to discuss, both practically and philosophically, that it’s all we can do to stop ourselves from making lists and issuing lectures. We thought we were prepared for this…we are prepared for this…as much as you can prepare for a life-changing event. That’s just it really - we won’t know how it will go until we let go.

Ah, there it is. Letting go. Doing nothing. It does not come naturally after a lifetime of doing all the things, all the time. While one part of me is perhaps quietly reaching for the Sauvignon Blanc and planning what to do with the time I have now unfettered with chauffeuring and planning dinner that my child will eat, a large part of me is not looking forward to all this freedom, not being required to solve a problem. A chance to save the day. Because getting used to not being needed is scary. Careful what you wish for though. Chances are that call will come soon enough. Because no large amount of freedom bestowed on a young adult occurs without a cock-up at some point, or should I say, “Experience comes at a price”. These are the mistakes that need to happen. But that’s what we as parents are here for.

But what of the bigger questions, like, what are you actually going to do after university? What goals do you have in life? Where will your income come from? Sure, these are lofty questions and don’t need to be answered now, but I don’t hear too many school guidance counsellors prepping students for the world beyond study. Perhaps a bit of reverse-engineered thinking might be what’s required to better prepare our children for the future. Like, it stands to reason that my son may end up wanting to stay in the country where he completes his studies, but will visa requirements allow that? Are there even decent job prospects there? What saving accounts are available?

It might be asking a bit too much for our children to have insights on these things before they’ve had any experience moving in the world without us around, but at least we can get them thinking about it. It might even prompt some extended dinner time conversation instead of “May I be excused from the table?” the second the last forkful of food is finished.

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