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Top tips for parents
Leaving home for university is a big step for those with parental responsibilities, as well as students. With this in mind we offer you some top tips to help you and your son or daughter when making that transition:
Keep calm and stay positive
Keep positive about all the changes you will all be encountering. Let your son or daughter know that it is completely normal to feel nervous, and project a feeling of calmness (even if you don’t feel it)!
Take a step back
Continue to encourage your son or daughter to be more independent. Build their self-confidence and help them to become more pro-active – they will soon need to organise themselves and make their own decisions, particularly when it comes to managing their student loan, their budget, and living in accommodation with people they have not met before.
There is a lot that can be done
If your son or daughter is are struggling either personally or academically, please encourage them to take action and speak to someone – their personal tutor, the relevant professional service, or a friend. The University has processes and procedures in place for most circumstances, and staff will do their best to assist every student.
Prepare them for independent living
Make sure they are able to use a washing machine, to budget for their weekly shop and to cook a few simple dishes (especially if they will be in self-catered accommodation).
If your son or daughter requires any additional support for medical or disability reasons then please advise them to contact firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible, to talk over what they will need and what we can supply, or call into the Student Services Zone anytime during Welcome Week. If they have disclosed a disability or medical condition at application they will have been sent an
‘additional requirements’ questionnaire. This allows them to tell Student Services and Housing staff more about any additional needs. Please encourage them to complete this and return it as soon as possible, if they have not done so already.
Talking to us about your son or daughter
We know that there are times when you might want to discuss your new student’s situation with us. We always welcome contact from parents or those with parental responsibilities. However, it is usually best if the student can contact us themselves, as how we respond to you is limited by the guidance of the Data Protection Act 1998 and the status of anyone over eighteen as a legal adult.
In the same spirit, do remember that our accommodation and financial contracts are between the University and the student. Due to data protection, we can usually only discuss details with the student directly, regardless of who is footing the bill!
We will talk more about this during the Parents and those with parental responsibilities Talks which we will be holding during Arrivals Weekend. Details of these are on the posters at the Key Collection point, in the Stripe Foyer and in The Zone (Student Services reception), or just ask any of our students and staff who you will see wearing brightly coloured T shirts.
Keep in touch
Leaving home is a big step and students may feel homesick at some point. It is important that they know you are there for them if they need some support, but also that you have confidence in them to get through this and make a new place for themselves here.
As tempting as it may be to invite them to come home whenever they are upset, it might be better
to encourage them to give it time, and remind them that they are unlikely to be the only ones feeling low. During our Parents Talks we cover where they can go for support and how they can help themselves when they are feeling a bit low – they can always find this information on our website or by coming in to Student Services.
Some students will throw themselves into university life, and you may not hear from them as often as
you would like. Try contacting them via email or text message rather than phone calls – you may get an answer more often! Remember, usually if you hear less often than usual it is because they are busy studying and having a good time.
Confidentiality and Student Support Services Information for those with Parental Responsibilities
The transition to university is an exciting one for students and quite often a nerve-wracking one for parents and those who have parental responsibilities! One of the things that can be difficult to understand in advance is the relationship between the student support services and parents (which includes all those with parental responsibilities, for example, guardians or carers). This leaflet aims to clarify that relationship and to answer the most frequent questions that parents put to us. You are welcome to call us to clarify any of this, or to ask further questions about it:
I am worried about my son or daughter, can you tell me if they are ok?
One of the most significant differences with students at university is that, once they turn eighteen, they are considered to be adults under the law. Decisions that would have been made with or by parents are now the responsibility of the student. This means that all of our interactions must be directly with the student, and they are responsible for their life at university – including the bills and what they choose to tell you about. This is quite a change from life before university.
Unlike school or sixth form college, universities cannot disclose anything to you about how your son or daughter is progressing, academically or personally. The Data Protection Act 1998 means that their information is their own, and it is their choice as to whether and how they want to share it. This includes everything from their address to their degree result.
Can I tell you that I am worried about them? I think someone should know
Yes, you can do this, of course. As a parent it can be very difficult to feel that your son or daughter is struggling or unhappy, and only natural to want to help. There are lots of support services at the University that you can encourage your student to access; and if you know something that would help us to help them, it is fine to tell us about it. We will always take such information into account, and use it to help inform any decisions that we make. If we are already aware of a problem it may help us to have more information about it; if we were not aware, we might find a way to check up on the student if it seems serious. It helps if you give us permission to say that it was you who informed us, but we can also respect your confidentiality if you want us to.
We won’t be able to tell you the outcome, but we do usually encourage the student to call you and tell you themselves.
Don't you have a duty of care?
Yes, we do, but this is in relation to the student as an adult. It is, therefore, the student’s responsibility to engage with the University regarding any support offered to them. Where there are differing levels of vulnerability we take those into account and may involve other services, like the GP. Unless it is an extreme circumstance, this is always in agreement with the student and they are in control of who knows what about them.
Where there are exceptional circumstances, in which the risk outweighs confidentiality, there would usually be other services involved too, such as the NHS. In some very serious circumstances, we might call the parent, or the student’s named emergency contact, with the student’s permission wherever possible. If the student is in trouble, but not at grave or life-threatening risk, the University will not usually contact anyone without the student’s permission.
What if my son or daughter agrees you can talk to me about them?
In some situations, this can be really helpful. It means that we have their permission to listen to you and to answer any specific questions that you have. It also means that we can call you and update you if necessary, although we won’t be able to provide regular updates as we would usually expect the student to do this themselves. You can pass on information that you think we should know that the student may not have mentioned.
What it doesn’t mean is that you can represent the student, that is, talk on their behalf. They can’t just ‘hand over’ to you. They would still be the person we are working with and they would still need to talk with us directly about what they needed. There are extreme circumstances where this is different, for example if they are very unwell for a period of time, but this is exceptional.
Disability assessments – a special word
We encourage disabled students to make contact with our services as soon as possible. This can include over Arrivals Weekend, when parents are welcome to accompany students to the appointment and to wait outside during it (the appointment itself is just between the disability adviser and the student). This is the same for all disability appointments, and in fact for all support appointments that we offer.
This can be the first time after years of going with your son or daughter into meetings to explain their needs that you have to let them ‘fly solo’, and it can be difficult to feel sure that they will pass on all the right information. However, it is good for them to understand from the start that this is going to be their responsibility. All of our advisers are very experienced and will take the time to understand each student and their requirements, making a second appointment if they are not sure they have got everything they needed at the first one.
What can parents do?
University is often the start of a different but positive relationship between children and parents, as both parties get used to the change in role. Now is the time to support them in defining their own lives and developing the self-control and confidence in their own decision-making that will guide them through their adult lives.
Stay in touch with your son or daughter, but realise that the frequency and type of contact will change. Talk with them directly if you are concerned, and let them know they can talk to you. The University has excellent support services; please do encourage them to come and see us if you or they are worried – they can find details on our intranet (search for Student Services), or they can call in to our reception The Zone which is in the Main Building, centrally located and easy to get to.
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