I wish I’d told my son he could start again after dropping out

When Zoe’s son left home and went to university his behaviour changed – he became uncommunicative and dropped out after his first year. Here Zoe talks about what happened and the conversation she wishes she’d had with him.

He was a very carefree, happy-go-lucky child, easy-going, a little bit mischievous, but nothing out of the ordinary.

I wouldn’t have said he was particularly academic but bright enough to carry things off. So he did well enough in his GCSEs, went on to do A-levels, and did well enough to get into university – admittedly through clearing – but he did get into university.

We took him up for Freshers’ Week. He seemed to immediately get in with a nice group of friends. They all bought their tickets for the Freshers’ Week entertainments and we left him in a hall of residence looking perfectly happy.

The first weekend he was away we did get in touch with him and he seemed quite chirpy. After that it was more or less total silence.

Part of the joy of going to university is getting away from your parents and finding your feet and being yourself, so we weren’t unduly worried at that stage. We thought, “We need to give him space just to be himself,” I suppose.

He didn’t call us and he didn’t answer our calls or emails. We were trying to phone him – in the end phoning almost every night, possibly a bit too much – and never getting anything back.

We didn’t really hear anything at all until it was time for him to come home for Christmas and he wanted a lift home.

By the second term of his first year we thought, “This is really a bit strange.”

We got my husband’s brother to visit him because he lived close to the university. He seemed to think things were okay.

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