Parent tips for prepping your teen for their first year at uni

My son is now in his 3rd year at uni ( he still has another year to complete) and I have picked up a few helpful tips along the way, first of all dealing with moving into halls and then moving into shared accommodation after that.

I was in your shoes a few years ago worrying myself to death about how he was going to cope with uni, cook for himself, budget his money and ultimately not get himself into any awful situations or get hurt!! ( I know, I know but c’mon they are our little babies after all).

So having learned some things along the way I thought I would share my wisdom to either save you a crap load of money ( no they really do not need everything AND the kitchen sink) or reassure you that your little baby will be just FINE!

Read more

Welcome to my new little corner of the web

Welcome to my new little corner of the web.

Those of you that know me from Mum in Meltdown will know I haven’t written on there for a long time as I simply fell out of love with that site. Each time I went on there it became apparent I had out grown  the Mum in Meltdown label. My boys are no longer younger teens (which was my main focus on that blog) and no longer happy to be talked about………..which is absolutely right and understandable.

So I deliberated for a long time not quite knowing whether to continue blogging………..I mean what the hell was I going to write about. I blogged the teenage years because it’s an absolute brutal minefield that will send you right over the edge on countless occasions. Yet, at the same time I was engaging with people in the same boat, going through the same struggles and therefore, it made me feel……………..well, almost normal.

Read more

Student Lets and Landlords

This year has seen my eldest returning to uni but this time he will be house sharing with four other students, friends he has made while living in student halls last year. They have had a year of independence, almost sheltered in a way, by living in a corridor with 11 others and sharing a kitchen and a couple of bathrooms. They work out differences on their own and gravitate towards other students that they get on with or become friends with. As parents, although it breaks our hearts to see them go, it feels like they are still being supported if they are living on campus with all the facilities around them. My eldest goes to Sussex university and it was well equipped with a large Co op, a large cafe, launderette, bar, pharmacy and a GP surgery! I know not all uni’s are the same and some are spread around towns on different areas instead. Read more

Teach your children not to live in fear

So, the last few months have seen us endure some pretty horrific terrorist attacks around the world as well and 3 in 3 months in this country alone, and I hear more and more people online sharing their fears for their children’s future in such a world. I too share those fears even though I have older teens now I wonder what will become their ‘normal’ in say the next 20 years with regards to terrorism, policing and our country’s safety. What will they be bringing their future children into in many years to come?

However, I am  from Belfast, born in 1970 and lived my youngest years into my teens throughout the height of ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland. The absolute full extent would probably never have been covered in the national media forums unless it involved the mainland itself, but still it continued on a very daily basis in my area as well as many others. My parents back then probably had the exact same fears about our future as children with armed police and the Army patrolling our streets and wondering where it would all end up.

Read more

A Level results and mixed emotions

Today my eldest son did the nervous walk to school to find out his results and ultimately if he was going to get to go to uni or not.

I really feel for the kids today as they seem to be under so much more pressure that we ever were at that age at school. Pressure from the school, pressure from their peers and even sometimes pressure from their parents.

Neither my husband or I went to university, my hubby went straight from school into a job working in a photographic lab, then on to the MOD and from there into the Royal Air Force ( where we met) and then for the last 20 yrs he has been in the Met Police………….not a bad career for someone with virtually no qualifications. I left school and did a Youth Training Scheme ( YTS- remember those….I am very old you know) as a teacher’s assistant before joining the Royal Air Force, I then worked for the London Ambulance service for many years before having my boys and leaving work. When they got older I trained to become a Driving Instructor which I did before my illness took over……….again not too bad for leaving school with only 5 O levels, although I do have 2 A levels which I did at night school while I was still in the Air Force.

Today’s kids though have it so much harder I think. They are pushed from school ( especially from grammar schools) towards the university route from the minute they join, it has almost become the ‘norm’ to go to uni for everyone. I personally love the fact that apprenticeships are making a huge comeback and some kids are choosing to go down that route themselves rather than get into the debt that uni will inevitably land them in. Apprenticeships allows them to use and learn life and work skills whilst earning a wage and is a great opportunity covering a range of careers in all walks of life.

My son got his results today and was overjoyed to get what he needed to go to his first choice uni (Sussex). Some of his friends did not get the qualifications they wanted but still got places, but there were a few who didn’t get anywhere near what they needed and have spent the day in the ‘hell’ that is clearing. It must be overwhelmingly stressful and heartbreaking for them to be in that position, for some it’s almost like the end of the world where they can see no way out.

We were happy for my son because he was happy he got what he wanted. Either way we would have been proud of him regardless of the outcome. For us as parents, if he is happy then we are happy. We made it clear to him well before his exams that he could only do his best and there are always options if things don’t work out the way he wanted.

As super proud as I am, I am totally unprepared mentally for him to be leaving in less than a month! I purposely did not start gathering anything he was going to need as there would be nothing worse than all the excitement of getting everything organised to then not get the results he required. Yes that will mean a rush to get him sorted but I would prefer it that way, however, that means mentally I am totally unprepared for him leaving. I cannot quite believe he will be gone in such a short space of time. It will probably whizz past in a total blur and I will be left after the 12th September weeping into my wine that my baby has gone!

I will miss him terribly but I know he is so excited to go and I am very proud he got the results he needed. MASSIVE MIXED EMOTIONS.

I don’t know how I will cope initially, I know I will get used to it but the start will be very hard for me. He’s my first born, my baby and I just want to keep him close but I know the time is right for him to spread his wings and cope on his own in a fairly safe environment with lots of others in the same position ( I just do not think he even has a clue of what is coming!).

My heart goes out to all of those who were disappointed today and just hope they can see that it is not the end of the world, that these things happen for a reason and that there is always a way forward for them even though it may not seem like it at the moment.

If anyone has any tips for me as a parent, or to help me get him organised with what he needs ( if you have been through this yourself) please let me know in the comments- I will welcome all advice.

Yes I am still here!

You may have thought I had given up on my little blog it has been so long since I have posted on here, but no, I am still here I have just been having a little break.

It’s not that I haven’t had anything to write about, there have been loads going on in the past few months in my little corner of the world, it is just the fact that I haven’t had the inclination to put it all on here, call it lack of blogging mojo but I have had a total break from my site although I have been active on my social media sites. Last night, however, I attended a lovely event down in Kent which got me back in touch with the blogging community. It was fun, it was nice to meet new people and get a bit of that missing blogging mojo back.

So, what has been happening while I have been away (and I do not mean the obvious political stuff that is all over social media at the minute). In my little bubble, I haven’t been active on here since attending a review for a local spa, which I have now joined myself and try and go there at least twice a week. I cannot tell you how relaxing it is using the heat rooms ( sauna and steam) there and how lovely that has been for my poor M.E/Fibro muscular pain.

There’s been 18th birthday celebrations for my eldest ( in April) before all the madness of his A level exams recently.

DSC_0012

There’s been more sewing for me as I attended another sewing class learning more skills and meeting new people.

dress collage

There’s been a lot of ‘new to me’ furniture buying and upcycling as we have started to redecorate our lounge from a modern look to a more old style/ country appearance..

Gone from Dark leather to cream fabric
Gone from Dark leather to cream fabric
Again gone from a very dark wood to white and a sanded top, I still need to cover the chairs!
Again gone from a very dark wood to white and a sanded top, I still need to cover the chairs!
Gone from dark to light on the curtains and will be taking down the blinds and putting up voiles instead to make it lighter
Gone from dark to light on the curtains and will be taking down the blinds and putting up voiles instead to make it lighter

There is still a lot to do as the walls need repainting and the feature walls need re-papered and some soft furnishings still need to be sorted, but the majority of the change over is done.

There’s also been a trip to Royal Ascot (which was amazing) for a friends 50th birthday.

That's my friend and I all togged up looking posh!
That’s my friend and I all togged up looking posh!

This was something I always wanted to go and experience and I am glad they invited us to enjoy their special day- things are always enjoyed best depending on the company you go with. This was a fabulous day that I will not forget for a very long time…………….did I mention how close I got to the Queen????

There you go - just in case you didn't believe me!
There you go – just in case you didn’t believe me!

Recent weeks have been tough health wise for me, I felt I was having no relief from my Fibromyalgia pain at all. It was making me more exhausted than normal and was just never ending. I finally managed to get a GP appointment and she is very understanding and finally changed my medication to a slow release morphine ( the strongest thing I have been on ever). However, the detox from the years of Tramadol onto slow release MST was just horrific for about 5-6 days in total. I have never felt so rough in my life, hardly able to hold myself up yet unable to sleep  ( I was literally awake all night on the 1st evening watching films!), there was lots of nausea and dizziness and a bloody awful crushing headache that lasted days. A week or so on from there and things have settled and things are on the up and I am slowly but surely getting back to what would be relative normality for me.

Then last night was a huge milestone when my 18yr old went on his 6th year school leaver’s Prom, having officially left school and now just waiting exam results ( do not mention Edexel A level Maths………….there may well be a meltdown here!) and hopefully for him ( definitely not me) off to uni.

Here he looking handsome and dapper being  forced to stand and have a million pictures taken before he went!
Here he looking handsome and dapper being forced to stand and have a million pictures taken before he went!

So there you have it! There have obviously been lots of normal life thrown in too, ( nothing is ever straightforward or stress free with older teens in the house) but for now I will leave it there.

I look forward to catching up on all the blogging goings on now that I have a little blog mojo back!

Amazing how differently your teen is treated by teachers when they find out about his almost certain ADHD diagnosis

Ok so before all you teachers instantly take offence to that I will openly say I do not think secondary teachers are paid enough for what they have to deal with and I could not for all the money in the world even contemplate teaching teenagers!! I appreciate you all have several classes with probably 30 moody, whingy, bolshy annoying teens in every class driving you to complete distraction getting on your last nerve at times…………….. I repeat I COULD NOT DO THAT JOB.

That said, when it comes to your own child and you can see him being persecuted for being fidgety, talking, moving, getting distracted and distracting others. Now I am not a mother who sees her children as little angels, I am fully aware that my 15 year old son is ‘high maintenance’, loud, demanding and can drive me to total distraction on a daily basis, so I do appreciate how that could be a pain in the arse to deal with in a class of 30 kids. So when the said child does not change over the years, finds it hard to focus and is the king of ‘low level disruption’ but is generally a very likeable boy surely some alarm bells would be ringing from the school side of things?

However, this did not happen, it was my son after lots of discussions at home who decided that he needed to take this further as he was getting very frustrated with getting into trouble for the same repeatable behaviour, to the point where particular teachers would actually send him out of the room within minutes because he was tapping his pen, or tapping his feet, or fiddling with stuff on his desk and then totally lose his temper when they gave him a detention for disruption. He has been on Head of Learning reports in year 9 and just wasn’t actually learning from it- it his words ‘I feel as though I just cant stop myself- I have done it or said it before I have even realised’.

So we went through the process of getting the school to refer him last year for an ADHD assessment ( totally pushed from our side). He eventually had his assessment just before Christmas 2015 where the consultant openly told us it was highly likely in her view he would be diagnosed and to prepare for him to be put on medication that would help him settle, focus and help him achieve his potential at school ( he is at a grammar school and all his teachers say he is very bright but he is letting himself down with his behaviour). Unfortunately the appointment to discuss possible medications will not be until May/ June at the earliest due to the waiting list.

Tonight we had his parents evening. He has heard so many times about his behaviour that he totally rights himself off with school and doesn’t think he can do anything, yet recently we were emailed by his Chemistry teacher to say he had an excellent result in his latest ISA test. He is on par for an A* in his Drama, and does well in strange subjects such as Classics too. He has the capability to do really well in his GCSE’s and we have been told that by most of his teachers.

So at each of the 4 minute slots you have ( I swear it’s like a form of speed dating!) with each teacher, every single one of them concentrated on his behaviour and not on his work to the point I just didn’t care and totally ran over my slotted time in order to inform them that he has been ADHD assessed, with a highly likely outcome, and is waiting on a probably medication appointment in hopefully may/ June time- all of which has been discussed with the SEN who was supposed to pass it on to his them.

The difference in how they spoke to him, about him and what they could do to help was unbelievable! We went from him being basically slagged off ( no wonder he goes to school with a self fulfilling prophecy attitude, tell someone they are a waste of space enough and they will become it!) to a complete turnaround for some of them.

All of his teachers have said they will………….

  • physically check he has written his homework in his planner rather than just ask him ( as he will say yes intending to do it at break time only to get distracted and then forget………..roll on a detention).
  • some have offered to print out notes for him as he struggles to read his own writing when he rushes notes in class and therefore takes the attitude that it’s not worth it as he wont be able to read them, therefore getting into trouble for not doing enough note taking.
  • Some have decided that they will move him closer to their desk in order to help keep him focussed.
  • Several said to get a stress ball that he could keep in his hand in class so that he has something to ‘fiddle with’ without making noise or distracting others.
  • One has already started to give him a little note at the start of the lesson to break down his one hour class into 10-15 minute bites for him so he only has to initially focus for short periods on one task.

They spoke to him about helpful coping strategies that they could work together on and some we could use at home with regards to his homework and coursework etc. His Drama teacher was absolutely brilliant with him and said that he was welcome in her class when she was there during breaks or after school to ‘vent’ or talk about things he was struggling with and she would help him as much as she could. She said he reminded her of herself at that age where he was almost at a crossroads and could go one way or the other, on a good path or a bad one, and she was more than happy to help him make the right choices.

It is a shame that it wasn’t picked up earlier from school and he felt he had already been written off by his teachers who literally couldn’t be bothered to have him in their class. Therefore, in his head he was never going to do any good at his GCSE’s. Tonight he is already talking about being a primary school teacher ( which he would be fab at as he gets on great with younger kids). Don’t get me wrong he is not going to find this easy, he will have to put some hard effort in himself and knuckle down to getting his homework done, but if it’s in his planner then we as parents can support him by making sure it’s done and therefore cut down on any detentions for not doing it because it wasn’t written in there. He will have to try really hard in class for the teachers to keep this level of support up on his behalf and hopefully help him with coping strategies even before he has to think about possible medication down the line.

So, for the first time after one of his parent’s evening we have all come home much more positive and my son now knows he has a friendly and approachable contact in the form of his Drama teacher if he finds he is getting frustrated with things at school. I cannot thank her enough for how nice she was to him tonight and how supportive she has offered to be- I think if one teacher at school can influence him it is definitely going to be her and hopefully that will help keep him on track in other classes too.

I would love to hear from any of you who have gone through the same thing, and if your child was put on medication did that help them at all?

 

 

 

 

‘Papa Don’t Teach’ – Would you teach your teen to drive?

Now if you asked me this a few years ago my answer would have definitely have been yes, that would have been because I was then working as a qualified Driving Instructor as a job and obviously had a suitable car which had duel controls. In fact it was something I was really looking forward too. I no longer work as a driving instructor due to my long term illness and so I am now looking at it purely from a parent’s point of view.

Therefore,if you ask me that question today, the answer is a resounding NO! In fact, just today I have booked him to start his lessons with a reputable company and instructor. Many of you will think this is madness to throw all that money away on lessons even though I feel I could teach him no problem but I would only do so in a suitable car with duel controls, believe me I speak from experience that learner drivers  try to kill you on a daily basis when they are only starting.

Read more

My teen gets an ASD diagnosis at 17

This is what we have been going through recently. My eldest has always shown Asperger traits throughout his growing up, but has been very high functioning that it has never been a major issue to him or us as parents. He noticed himself after being at secondary school for a year or so that he ‘seemed’  different to his friends, that’s also when his lack of management skill came into play big time and and we had a discussion with him then to see if he wanted to pursue it further and get a diagnosis. At that time he said no, he didn’t want to be labelled different or have any spotlight put on him and so we helped him along with the school to get him more organised. It has also not hindered him in any way with friends, he has some great friends in the last few years that just accept him and his sometimes ‘odd’ ways and in fact it was one of those friends who encouraged him to go to his GP for help.

However, as he got older and then headed through the pressure of his GCSE’s it started to take it’s toll resulting in high levels of anxiety (which we were totally unaware about as he hid it very well under a laid back exterior) which led to a secondary period of ‘low mood’. This is when he as a 16 yr old then made an appointment with his GP and went off to discuss his ‘depression’ before telling us that he had gone and they were going to follow it up with a referral to our Children’s and Young Adults Mental Health clinic. We have supported him in his decision fully and have found out from our consultations that this high anxiety and low mood is very common in undiagnosed, high functioning, ASD cases in teens. They get to a certain age and then start to feel socially awkward and uncomfortable in a time that is turbulent for most teens anyway! This leads to the high anxiety resulting in a secondary ‘depression’.

We have since then been through the necessary assessments and he got his official diagnosis over the half term. I have emailed his Head of Learning at school to inform him of the diagnosis and arrange a meeting to see what help ‘if any’ he can get in his last year of A levels. There is an urgency to this meeting from my point of view as he has his UCAS forms to send off very soon and they need to know his requirements from school.

What I need to know is what sort of things he could be entitled to from others who are in this situation. If, at the very least, it would be nice if he qualified for some extra exam time, as his writing is atrocious and that could take the pressure of time off him as 2 of his subjects are essay based and he struggles to make his handwriting legible!

I would love to get some ideas from people in the same situation so I have an idea of what I should expect or not when I do get a school meeting.

Can you help?

My baby turns 15!

It feels like time is just spiralling out of control, there’s no brakes, no way of slowing it down to appreciate what is going on.

This week saw my youngest turn 15, now one of the oldest in his class. To be honest he’s like 15 going on 50 but that’s another story, however, his age now hits hard as he is my youngest, my baby so to speak. It seems like only last week we brought him home from the hospital and felt we had all the time in the world to appreciate him.

So what happens? We blink and they are teenagers, to old to be babied and not old enough to be an adult, yet they are like mini adults with their own personalities and strong views. I am now officially the smallest person in the house with the 2 boys towering over me, making me feel small and old!

Birthdays can make you nostalgic, look back with rose tinted glasses and feel as though you didn’t make the most of the time when they were young. Of course this is never true. They were hard work as babies, they took all of our time, we were up during the nights, nursed them when they were ill, praised every stage of their development and enjoyed all the different stages they have been through.

My baby can now look down on me and pat me on the head. He can make me laugh and cry, he can frustrate the life out of me ( everyday), make me proud, embarrass me and show his loving side ( which we don’t always get to see). He knows how to make me the perfect cup of coffee, knows how to get his way, knows how to argue his case but can be very caring when he knows I am ill and will still accompany to the cinema- although I am sure those days will soon come to an end. He is growing up fast biting on the tails of his 17 year old brother and embraces independence at every stage.

I can only try and treasure the time we have now before his life takes him in the direction he wants to go, be that staying close to us or venturing further away on his on journey.

Happy Birthday to the baby of the family and thanks for making me feel proud ……………………….but OLD!!

DSC_0246