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Supporting your child at university during the COVID-19 pandemic

Three parents share their tips for supporting a child who’s struggling with their mental health at uni during the coronavirus pandemic.

Starting university can be a stressful time – not just for students, but for their parents or carers too.

It is a big period of change for both of you, and it can be difficult to know how to support your child, especially with the uncertainty of COVID-19. We asked three parents what their tips are for supporting a child at university during the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s what they said.

Jan

  • Try not to contact your young person too much as this could undermine their growing sense of independence and make them feel your anxiety - thereby making them more anxious. It’s hard, but try to wait for them to contact you.
  • When they do contact you, try not to make them feel bad for not contacting you earlier. That will just put them off contacting you in the future!
  • If your young person is homesick or lonely, reassure them that you are still there for them, their home is still there and you’ll see them soon.
  • Encourage your young person to reach out and try to meet other students. This may not be easy with Covid-19 but most unis have online clubs and activities, so encourage your young person to give them a go.
  • Make sure your young person is aware of who to turn to if they need help - whether practical help or emotional help. Most halls of residence have someone who is in charge of their welfare. They deal with everything from annoying neighbours through to organising counselling for more serious matters. Encourage your young person to reach out if they need this help.
Make sure your young person is aware of who to turn to if they need help - whether practical help or emotional help.
Jan
  • Tell your young person not to take too seriously all the chat from their friends about having the time of their lives at uni - it won’t all be true. Uni can be hard, but most people settle in and enjoy their time there, even if they find it hard at the start.
  • If your young person doesn’t like the people they are sharing a flat with in halls of residence, encourage them to find something about their flatmates that they do like. This is a great skill for life. Remind them that they don’t have to become their best friends, but they can settle into a reasonably friendly relationship that works.
  • Encourage routine - eating, studying and sleeping. Most of us respond better to routine and it’s never too late to put some in place. A lack of routine - and especially sleep - can make life seem a lot harder than it is.
  • If your child has to quarantine because of COVID-19, make sure they have someone who can get them the food they need. If they aren’t sure who that is, contact the university or halls reception and ask who is responsible for helping them. Perhaps ask if you can organise online deliveries.
  • Suggest a regular FaceTime call to check in on them and remind them that this time will soon be over.
If your young person doesn’t like the people they are sharing a flat with in halls of residence, encourage them to find something about their flatmates that they do like. This is a great skill for life.
Jan

Karen

  • As difficult as it may be, try not to over-parent your young person in university. Try to remember that they are now an adult and that this is a great opportunity to spread their wings and build on their independence! It is natural to worry about them - particularly with the lockdown restrictions - but try to support them and help them see that they can take on this new task!
  • Set up agreed forms of communication with your child. This will help to ease your mind and prevent you from worrying too much. Try not to expect lots of communication from your child, but maybe agree to send an emoji or short text each day.
  • Find funny ways to surprise and delight your child at uni, e.g. I sent my daughter a chicken because she lives with a house full of vegetarians.
Try not to expect lots of communication from your child, but maybe agree to send an emoji or short text each day.
Karen

Debbie*

  • Use WhatsApp or similar to keep in touch. It’s great for working out when is a good time to call.
  • Be led by your child about how often they want to talk to you - hopefully they will be busy with work and socialising.
  • If you feel that they are not settling in or are getting homesick, ask whether a visit from you or a friend would help (if restrictions allow).
Be led by your child about how often they want to talk to you - hopefully they will be busy with work and socialising.
Debbie*
  • Remind them that working in the library can be more sociable than just studying in a bedroom. Just being in a room of other students can lift the mood. Currently library work stations have to be booked ahead, so suggest they do this a couple of times a week.
  • Try to get them to take a week at a time. Looking too far ahead and worrying about further restrictions isn’t helpful.
  • Send the occasional parcel - fill it with treats you know they’ll enjoy.

* not her real name.

Where to get help

If you're worried about a child or young person, have a look at our for parents section for information, tips and suggestions on where to get help.

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