Monday, 28 September 2015

Do students need workshops on sexual consent?

Oxford and Cambridge introduced compulsory workshops for new students last year, and other universities are following suit.  I've just joined a discussion on BBC Radio Sheffield, which heard some alarming experiences from students who'd been groped, even raped.

Their stories are backed up by a series of studies by the National Union of Students which found that one in four students suffer unwelcome sexual advances. Meanwhile a report published in 2013 by the Ministry of Justice, the Home Office and the ONS said that female students are at higher risk of sexual violence than the general population.

A new worry for parents

It's worrying for parents left behind at home, coping with the uncomfortable notion that our job's done and from now on we have to let our kids make their own mistakes - a scary prospect.   It's hard not to think about all the conversations you should have had about sex, all those missed opportunities.

I suspect I'm not the only parent who has never had a conversation about sexual consent with any of my kids - my sons or daughter.  For us Brits it's difficult to talk about sex, but in this context it feels like a poor excuse.
Because  Freshers' Week seems a bit late for this discussion: surely consent should be part of sex education - at school and with parents - when kids are still at home.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Things getting tense in your nearly-empty nest? Here's how to cope

A friend once said her son had to 'trash the nest'  before he could leave it - and her.   For months before he left home he was bolshy and rude  - a far cry from the adoring toddler who sobbed his heart out whenever she left him.

So when her son finally got his own place she was glad to see the back of him.  At the same time she felt guilty and sad that they'd parted on such bad terms.

She's not alone.  Tension is par for the course in the final weeks before kids leave home.  Yet it's easy to feel you're the only one,  that other families are happily bonding over shopping trips for mugs and duvets. By contrast you're snappy, sulky and eating meals in silence.  And always there's the horrible feeling that time is running out - it seems such a waste of precious last days together.

It helps to take a long-term view.    You're almost certain to find you get on a lot better when you don't have to do their laundry and remind them to do their homework/wear a bike helmet.  University is great at making kids appreciate home - and their parents.   It won't be too long before it's a relationship  between two adults.

My friend's son who trashed the nest now gets on like a house on fire with his mum.  She looks back on the trauma of him leaving home as what it was - a blip in their relationship. Temporary, although at the time she thought it would never end.

And remember, you're not the only one feeling anxious and unsure about the future. Behind that cool facade your son or daughter is probably just as nervous as you.

 You're both stepping out of your comfort zone, but you, at least, are staying on familiar territory.


  • Don't be offended if your son or daughter is never at home. They've got a lot of goodbyes to say to friends/girlfriends/boyfriends. 
  • Arrange a farewell dinner - somewhere they want to go.  Agree on a time that suits everyone
  • If they're anxious or unconfident stress the positives about uni without piling on the pressure. 
  • Acknowledge their achievement in getting a place (just not in front of mates or sibs, obvs)
  • Don't just focus on their needs. Make plans for your own future: indulgent treats and nights out to cheer you up when you miss them, weekends away, evening classes.