Coping with your child leaving home for university

Print preview

At a glance

Advice on how to prepare for your child leaving home to start university and what to expect when they’ve gone.

Preparing to say goodbye

It's common for parents to feel emotional when the moment comes for their child to leave home and go to university. Even parents who don't speak about the event are likely to feel a sense of sadness because it’s the end of an era where you and your family were at the centre of your child's world. As a parent you’ll probably continue to support your child in different ways, but the main job of raising your child is over. It's a huge change for everyone involved.

Thinking ahead about how you might feel can be very helpful - along with talking to other parents who've already seen their children off to university.

Leaving for university or college

Plan carefully for your child's departure and think about how you can help. Many parents take their child to university for the first time. If you decide to do that, be ready to feel a real wrench when the time comes to say goodbye. Your child will probably be as nervous as you are about the moment when you finally say goodbye - but that might not show!

Be positive and upbeat about the choice your child has made to continue studying, and plan to leave once you've unpacked the car and looked around your child's new living accommodation. If you can, save your tears for the car – you'll make things easier on your child and yourself.

Life after your child has left home

The more you've invested in being a parent, the more you'll feel a sense of loss - so the sadness you feel now is a sign that you've been a good mum or dad. Remind yourself that parenting is all about raising an independent and confident child who functions well without you. If your child is quickly settled and enjoying life, you should congratulate yourself.

It's also only fair to allow yourself some time to grieve. Don't expect to pick yourself up and move on straight away. But you may decide to find a hobby or sport to fill your extra time, Perhaps you've always wanted to learn a new language, go to yoga classes or take up swimming regularly. You may decide to spend more time with family and close friends, who are likely to be feeling the absence of your child too.

Staying in touch

Once your child is at university, you will both benefit if you can let go. You can't manage or influence your child's life as you could before. This is the moment to accept that your child is now an adult and must make his or her own decisions and mistakes. You can still be there at the end of the phone to listen, support, advise and show love - but you can't know everything that's going on in their life, and you shouldn't expect to.

Agree on the best approach to staying in touch before your child leaves, and stick to your agreement. Some families stay in touch using:

  • email
  • text
  • phone
  • instant messaging

There are more ways than ever before to communicate but try not to panic if your child doesn't respond immediately - remember, they're starting a new and busy life.

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.