Parents’ worries as children flee the nest for university

Debora Green
Debora Green

THE extent of parents’ “empty nest” feeling when children leave for university was highlighted this week in research by the University of Sheffield.

Three-quarters of parents in the region fear they will find the parting “emotionally difficult” during the first few weeks.

The main concern is the safety of children, followed by worries about them feeling lonely or unhappy and then their financial welfare. For around a third of parents, there is the feeling that their time as a parent was coming to an end.

Yet the study indicates parents miss their child more than their child misses them.

Debora Green, head of student support and guidance at the University of Sheffield, said: “This research shows just how tough the first few weeks of university can be for parents and that the empty nest feeling can be emotionally very difficult.

“Students have the excitement of new experiences and new people to ease feelings of homesickness – but the parents are left with the empty home.

“They also know that they can rely on family for support, even if they don’t ever ask for it.

“Parents need to remember – parenting doesn’t end at this stage, it only changes.”

Tips for parents to help make the transition easier include practical steps ranging from shopping with children for basic kitchen equipment to making sure they have the right stationery and making sure they know how to cook at least two dishes they like.

If the student has had health or psychological difficulties, they should be encouraged to contact the relevant university service.

Stay in contact with your children – but don’t overdo it. You want them to feel they have all your support if they need it, but you need to recognise they need space to go it alone.

The University of Sheffield offers a range of services for new students, from cookery instruction to helping them to manage their money.