Parents fear empty nests as students settle into campus life

Concerns about financial management rife as leading student counsellor gives top tips for beating separation woes.

More than two-thirds of parents in the UK (70%) fear that that they will find their child leaving for university “emotionally difficult”, with 40% believing that they will miss their child more than their child will miss them, according to new research published today.

The study, undertaken by the University of Sheffield, highlights the worries of many parents as children around the country settle into the first few weeks of university life.

Concern for the safety and well-being of children came out as the number one issue (49%), while many parents worried about the family home feeling empty (43%). Fears over children feeling lonely were next (37%), with worries about financial management close behind (36%). A third of parents (30%) even worried that their child going to university meant that their time as a parent would be coming to an end.

Debora Green, head of Student Support and Guidance at the University of Sheffield, said:

“This research show 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.

“At Sheffield we try to make sure that parents can feel secure in the knowledge that new students are not only in a world class university but are able to enjoy being part of a vibrant, diverse community and, in time, make new friends in a safe environment.”

Debora has given her top tips for parents to make the transition as easy and worry free as possible.

· Take practical steps with your children to ensure you are confident they are prepared. Whether it’s shopping with them for basic kitchen equipment or making sure they have the right stationery, it can help your peace of mind.

· If the student has had health or psychological difficulties (e.g. depression, an eating disorder) in their teens or ever been diagnosed with dyslexia, dyspraxia etc, DO encourage them to share this information with the relevant service in the University. Starting university can be stressful and old issues can recur. There will be lots of help available, provided in confidential settings.

· 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.

· Help out your children with practical tools they can use: a printed weekly budget sheet for example – see our online money planner

They may not use it all the time, but you’ll be confident you’ve helped them out as much as you can. If you haven’t already taught them how to shop economically, now’s the time!

· Make sure that they know how to cook at least two dishes that they like – at least then you know they can look after their stomach.

· Remember that universities invest in lots of services to help students: at Sheffield we have a university health service, residential mentoring support, a counselling service, front line information and advice based in the Students’ Union building, a multi-faith chaplaincy and personal tutoring support… It’s hard to let go, but they are in safe hands.

· If you can’t find information about student support to reassure yourself of help to advise your student on parents’ web pages, (such as, do look at the students’ pages for information and contact details.

The University of Sheffield offers extensive services for new students, from cookery instruction to tools to help manage their money. For more information on student life at Sheffield go to

OnePoll surveyed 2000 parents between 5th and 6th October 2011.

The University of Sheffield is ranked 10th in the UK and 97th in the world by The Academic Ranking of World Universities (previously known as the Shanghai Jiao Tong Academic Ranking of World Universities)

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