Coronavirus and university

Going to university is normally exciting but scary. The first few weeks are about making new friends, having your first lectures and getting to know your new hometown. Or if you’re a returning student, starting another year with friends you’ve met from across the UK and returning to your favourite places.

This year, coronavirus restrictions are making student life very uncertain. And this can take its toll on the mental health of students. This can be worrying for you as their parents, so we’ve outlined some things you can do to support your child from afar.

Child entering university building

Keep in touch

  • Try and keep in regular contact by video chat or messaging. Receiving letters or care packages can be a huge boost so have a think about what home comforts you can send them to enjoy.
  • When talking to them, let them know you are worried about them and want to make sure they are ok, you’re not trying to be nosey or clingy.
  • Talk to your child about things that they think will help them relax and de-stress. If they can’t think of anything, suggest mindfulness or meditation apps, getting outside for a walk, eating healthily, keeping to a routine where possible. You’re looking to help them work out what they think might make them feel better in themselves.
  • Practice active listening with your child. Really pay attention when they talk about how they feel and make sure to validate their feelings. Don’t brush it under the table and say things like “I’m sure you will feel better in the morning” or “you just need to get on with it”, as this will not be helpful to them.
  • Help them to recognise anxious and stressful feelings such as lack of motivation in studying, not wanting to socialise, nail biting/picking, stomach issues and help them listen to their bodies.
  • Remind them that it’s ok to be upset that they are not getting the university experience they had expected. It’s ok and healthy to mourn the loss of that.

Help them get support

  • Encourage your child to reach out to student welfare on campus.  Some universities have a Nightline service. If your child doesn’t feel they can do this you might want to consider speaking to student welfare yourself so they can check in with them.
  • Let them know about services such as Kooth and The Mix which provide young people with access to online chat with counsellors.
  • Encourage them to make a phone or face to face appointment with their GP to discuss how they feel if they are struggling.
  • Put a safety plan in place with your child. Look at who they can contact on site and by phone when in distress. Is there someone they live with they trust and can turn to? Can they give your number to that trusted person so they can call you if your child feels unable to?

Concerned about their mental health

  • Let them know it’s ok to call you at anytime, even in the middle of the night. Reassuring them that you are there for them, no matter what, is really important.
  • If you have concerns about your child’s mental health whilst they are at university suggest having a regular time to check in each day. It can be as small as a WhatsApp message or a call, whatever works for them.
  • If you’re really concerned, then let them know that if you don’t hear from them you will call the university to do a welfare check. This will emphasise the importance of sticking to these check ins.
  • For this level of concern, it would be a good idea to look at getting your child home with you as soon as possible and seek professional help.

Also, keep checking the up to date information, guidance and advice about university coronavirus policy and procedures.

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