Going to university is a big change for both you and your child. Here are some tips from our Parents Helpline of things you can do before they go, and whilst your child is at university.
Before Starting University
Talk about it before they go, to prepare them and prepare yourselves.
Get them to find out about the wellbeing and mental health support provided at both the university and the hall of residence. This is also the kind of information they’ll receive at Freshers’ week fairs and induction sessions.
Encourage them to make their university aware of any mental or physical health problems they struggle with before they start. The university will then be able to let you know about any support they can offer to help.
Look into whether the university offers any mentoring or buddy schemes, where an older student can be paired up with them. This way they can ask any questions or queries and get to grips with what to expect from uni life.
Recognise that the close structure they are used to will change. The routines of sixth form, college or home life will change at university. If your child is someone who needs structure, help them plan how to build this into their life at uni and ways that they can manage their time.
Remember that independence and coping strategies are good for mental health. Encourage their independence by showing them budgeting and other living skills. If they haven’t ever done any of these already, you could get them to do the weekly family shop, plan and make meals, do all the washing, read the meter, or arrange for someone to come and fix something.
Decide on expectations, and agree together how often and how you’ll keep in touch.
Touch base regularly. Be chatty about your stuff, and try to gauge by the things they tell you what’s going on for them, rather than interrogating.
Watch and listen for signs that they might be struggling, such as anything unusual in the way they normally communicate, an impression of low mood or seeming not to be enjoying things.
Encourage them to get involved at the earliest opportunity. If they’re nervous about socialising, remind them that everyone will be in the same boat and will all be wanting to make friends. They could look into societies they would enjoy, social events or make plans with housemates to get to know one another. Making friends and being part of things will help them feel more part of the university, and it will build a support network around them too.
As parents do not expect the university to get in touch with you if they have any concerns, universities often strive for independence in young people.
Try to encourage them not to compare their experience with others. There will be a lot of pictures placed on social media capturing Freshers’ week and there will be a range of academic abilities in course. Reassure them that they have worked hard to get into university and are just as capable as anyone else. Encourage them to enjoy their own experiences and not to become worried about what others are doing.
Remind them to keep tutors and supervisors aware if there are any problems or difficulties that they are experiencing. They can help to put support into place or extend deadlines.