Wellbeing information for parents


Leaving home to go to University is a major transition for students and for their families.

Although this is an exciting time, for some parents and carers it can be difficult to let go and be confident that your son/daughter will survive and flourish in their new life. The pages and links in this section offer some practical advice on how you can help your son/daughter to successfully manage the transition to University life.

University is very different from school

Your son/daughter is now an adult and therefore they are responsible for their finances, academic attendance and performance, diet, social life, sleeping habits and everything else that happens on a daily basis. Because our relationship as a University is with the student, you will find that lecturers, advisors, halls staff etc. will not be in a position to speak to you about how your son/daughter is doing due to our duties and responsibilities under Data Protection.

Some parents will recognise this as a positive step in their son/daughter's development. Others may struggle with the idea that their son/daughter suddenly has all of this responsibility and that they no longer have the ability to step in and put everything right.

Following the guidance outlined in these pages will help you and your son/daughter feel more confident about their ability to assume these responsibilities.

However, most parents do still have a key role to play in supporting their children even after they have left home for University. Knowing what problems may appear and how best to advise your child can be crucial in helping them through the trickier parts of their university experience

Further information

Talk to your son or daughter

Let them discuss with you how they are feeling about leaving home. Make sure they focus on the positives as well as the negatives but do let them talk about their fears and concerns. It is normal to be apprehensive about change and upset to be leaving home. It isn't wrong to feel that way, it is a natural part of growing into an adult.

Reassure them that you will be ok once they have gone

Many students worry unduly about their parents and this can add to their stress levels and make it more difficult for them to settle in to University life. It is good to know that you will miss them but that you will be ok and that they don't have to worry about you.

Give them some practical skills

It is always surprising how many students leave home unable to cook, operate a washing machine or structure their own day. Make sure they can cook a reasonable number of meals (there are some recipes on this site they can use) and can read washing labels. If you haven't already, give them some responsibilities around the home. If a student is confident in their ability to take care of themselves, they will find the process of transition to university life much easier.

Support at University

There is lots of support available to our students and Derby prides itself on being friendly and supportive. Details of the different types of support available .

Help them plan for success

Doing well can often depend more on how a student manages the move to university than it does on their academic ability. There is lots of advice on this website to help - you may also want to discuss with them the importance of balancing their academic work, paid work, social life, healthy living and time for themselves.

Don't make big changes straight away

For many parents it is tempting to throw themselves into redecorating the entire house as soon as their son or daughter has gone. Some may even talk about what they plan to do with their son or daughter's bedroom or will want to move house. It is important to recognise that, for a while, university will feel very transient for many students. They will look to home as the place where things are safe and stable. If you make big changes in their first term they may suddenly feel as though nowhere is stable and nowhere is home. Give them some time to settle in before pushing forward with those changes.

Many parents tell us that they believe the start of University is harder on them than on the student. It is certainly a time of mixed feelings; you may feel excited about what your child has achieved and sadness that they are moving on.

You may also find that you have fewer responsibilities and more time to yourself. It is important during and after this process that you look after yourself.

Enjoy yourself

Explore or rediscover your own interests and new activities. By focusing on pleasurable activities and exploring your own interests, you are likely to experience an improved mood and sense of confidence. This also provides your child with a role model of positive coping and decreases the potential of your child feeling guilty about leaving the family home.

Stay healthy

Even though your child has gone to university, they may still need you to be available to talk and to provide support and guidance. This is especially important in the early weeks of university and if your child feels stressed or overwhelmed. Maintaining your physical and emotional health can ensure that you will have the resources necessary to support your child and will also help you cope effectively with stressful events. You can find healthy living tips on this website for students - they apply equally to you.

Plan ahead

Make arrangements in advance to see your child during term and in the holidays - discuss this with them so that you both agree on a time that suits you both.

Seek support

Spend time with friends and family and talk with other adults who understand what you are going through. If you are feeling overwhelmed, distressed or upset and it is interfering with your ability to manage on a day to day basis make an appointment to see your GP.

Encourage your child to be independent

If your child is encountering problems resist the urge to get involved until they have done everything they can to resolve the problem. Direct them to the support available within the University so that we can help them to reach a resolution.

Look after yourself

Knowing that you are ok and enjoying life can reassure them that they don't need to worry about you. Many students worry unduly about their parents and this can add to their stress levels and make it more difficult for them to settle into University life. It is good to know that you will miss them but that you will be ok and that they don't have to worry about you.

Stay in touch but give them space to breathe

It is important to maintain a healthy balance of communication so that your child feels in touch with you but also feels free to live their lives. Discuss this with your child and agree between you how often you will talk on the phone, email or update facebook etc.

Keep them in the loop

Even though your child may be living elsewhere, they need to feel connected with their family. This will be especially important at times when your child is impacted by significant life events and during anniversaries and other important occasions. Let your child know that they are still part of the family, and keep them informed and included in important family decisions, activities and updates.

Give your child options

Discuss with them how they want to spend anniversaries, holidays, and other important dates. Give your child the option of spending these dates at home with you or with their friends at university. It is important that they feel that they are able to make the choice.

Promote positive relationships

Encourage your child to develop friendships and build a support system outside the family by getting involved in campus life. Ask them about their social life and friends. If possible allow them to invite friends to your home on weekends or holidays. Close social relationships and supports are very important during potentially stressful years at university.

We know from many years of working with students that there are key points in the year when they are more likely to find things difficult. Not all students will conform exactly to this pattern but most will apparently swing between excitement and upset, particularly during their first year. This is a natural part of the process and not something to be worried about unduly. Reassure your child and remind them of the support that is available within the University.

  • The beginning of the year - leaving home and settling into University is obviously a stressful experience. Remind your child that just because it isn't perfect straight away that doesn't mean they are in the wrong place. It can take time to find your feet and your friends. Give it a few weeks and most students settle down. See our homesickness page for more information.
  • Week 6 - even for those who don't have to submit their first assignments at this point, this is can often be a time when students struggle a little. It can feel like they have been away from home for a long time and Christmas is still a long way off. At this point a visit home or a visit from you or a friend can help to ease their difficulties.
  • December - having lived away from home for three months the prospect of missing their new friends and having to live by your rules can feel like a backward step. Discuss this with them before they come home so that everyone knows what can be expected.
  • The first week in February - it is dark and cold and once again your child is leaving home to return to University, this time without the excitement of a new experience. Reinforce the tips from this website on how they can take care of themselves and reassure them that as Spring arrives most students do feel better.
  • Exam periods - it is obviously stressful having to prepare for and sit exams. Direct them to the information on this website on helping to manage exam stress and resist the urge to state what grades you expect them to achieve -the extra pressure could have a detrimental affect rather than motivating them.

Despite the occasional difficulty most students do enjoy their time at university. For some, however, things do go wrong. It is important that those in contact with students are alert to the signs that they are struggling more than expected. Some of the possible signs to be aware of are:

  • Prolonged sadness or depressed mood
  • Tearfulness, crying, and frequent emotional outbursts
  • Excessive irritability, hostility, anger, or resentment
  • Loss of interest and pleasure in activities they once enjoyed
  • Withdrawal from social interactions
  • Statements of loneliness
  • Difficulty developing a social network on campus
  • Loss of energy and fatigue
  • Agitation and restlessness
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • Missing lectures often
  • Falling behind in course work or failing classes
  • Substantial changes in appetite, eating patterns, or weight
  • Feelings of guilt, hopelessness, or worthlessness
  • Self harm e.g. cutting themselves
  • Risk taking behaviours, such as unprotected sex
  • Excessive use of alcohol or drugs
  • Hopelessness
  • Thoughts or statements of death or suicide

If you notice a number of these signs you should first discuss them with your child and if appropriate encourage them to seek support.

If they refuse to seek support and you are concerned for their safety you can contact the Student Wellbeing Service to discuss this on:

Derby Campus

T: +44 (0)1332 593000
E: studentwellbeing@derby.ac.uk

Buxton Campus

T: +44 (0)1298 330414
E: swsbuxton@derby.ac.uk

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