How to support your university-student kids if they live at home
Parents and university graduate

Attending post-secondary school was one of the most challenging times of my life. I was adjusting to a new schedule while attending a school where I didn’t know anyone. Admittedly, I didn’t focus on my studies during high school, so I knew I needed to try a lot harder if I wanted to land a job when I graduated.

To complicate things, I was living at home. While this was beneficial from a budget standpoint, my parents didn’t quite understand what I was studying and still treated me as a child. At the time, they got on my nerves (and I’m sure I did the same to them), but they provided a lot of support.

Based on my personal experience, here are my tips on how to support your post-secondary school kids if they’re living at home.

Help where you can

The easiest way to support your kids while they study is to continue doing what you’ve been doing for the last 18 years or so. Grocery shopping, preparing meals and cleaning are appreciated more once your kids are in college or university.

If your kids are used to doing chores, you could continue to keep that routine going. That said, helping them out during exams or reading week will give them a much need break or extra time to study.

When available, driving your kids to school or allowing them to drive themselves will also go a long way. While public transportation can be convenient, driving may save some time.

Give them financial support or advice if you can

One of the best ways to help your children with their studies is to provide financial support. By opening a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP), you can get a 20% match up to $500 per year thanks to the Canada Education Savings Grant (CESG). Note that to be eligible for the CESG, you need to open an RESP before the end of the calendar year when your child turns 15.

Assuming you did open an RESP, releasing your child’s funds when they need to start paying tuition is the way to go. Technically speaking, your child can use that money for anything they want, so you may want to advise them to use the funds for educational purposes only.

Don’t worry if you didn’t open an RESP or didn’t have the resources to do so, you can still help them. Teaching them any money lessons that you know, such as making a budget, can help them manage their finances. You can also help your kids navigate student loan applications or research student grants and scholarships.

Prepare them for what’s next

Let’s be realistic, by the time your kids are in university or college, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to help them much with their studies. What you can do is prepare them by teaching them things that they’ll unlikely to learn in school.

If your kids don’t know how to cook, now might be a good time to teach them some family traditions or essential recipes. Think of this as a low-stress activity that will give them some much-needed life skills.

It’s also a good idea to show them how to do their taxes. Although doing your taxes is easy, many people are intimidated by them. Show your children how they’re done and let them know how Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) contributions can lower their taxable income.

You could also help your kids with their resume and job search. All of these things may not seem like a big deal, but you want to prepare them for life in the working world.

Treat them like adults

One could argue that one of the best ways to support your kids is to treat them like the adults that they’ve become. Sure, you may still think of your children as your little ones, but they’re at the beginning of their adult years once they’re in college or university.

Treating them the same way you did before may not be as effective. Some of the rules you may have had in place may need to be relaxed. You may have a ‘my house, my rules’ system in place, but will your adult children still respond well to it?

I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t have any rules in place, but remember, you’re dealing with adults now. If they want to sleep in because they were up all night studying (or playing games), let them. There’s also no reason to ask them a thousand questions if they want to go out at night.

Final thoughts

Dealing with your children who are now university students can be tricky, especially if they still live at home. It’s hard to think of them as adults when you’ve raised them since birth. Adjusting your expectations and being supportive are the best things you can do at this time.

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. As a completely self-taught, do-it-yourself investor with no formal training, he makes money easy to understand for all Canadians. His specialties include personal finance, budget travel, millennial money, credit cards, and trending destinations.

Barry Choi is a paid spokesperson of Sonnet Insurance.
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