Chatting on the phone
Sam: What first comes to mind on how you support my mental health?
Mum: Speaking to you on the phone, definitely. Keeping in touch is a big deal. If there’s something going on, we might facetime two or three times a week and other times it could be two weeks between chats.
Dad: Yes. It’s important to keep a sense of humour among it all. Laughing together with levity. Talking about things, the good, everyday things, sharing funny pictures or stories because with that you know that there is some goodness in the world after speaking to your Dad or Mum. You might not recognise that effect immediately, but it lingers, a nice phone call from Mum and Dad. You know that we are always there at the end of the line.
Mum: I try and keep positive as much as possible. Sometimes I’ll get irrational thoughts or worries about you. The other night I woke up at 2am worrying that something bad had happened to you, but the next time I spoke to you everything was fine. I don’t want to share too much stress from home, so I sometimes tell white lies, so you don’t have to know about all the little disasters happening at home.
Sam: I agree with all of that. Speaking on the phone to you both is very important to me. What else comes to mind?
Mum: Encouraging your kids to spend time outdoors, encouraging you to grow a little pot plant or vegetables, or walk in nature. Encouraging you to go to the gym or a dance class or do a physical activity. You can’t just be sitting at your desks studying all day.
Dad: You can’t leave someone locked in a cupboard 8 hours a day!
Mum: And encouraging you to get out and about or join clubs or go to the pub or go to social activities. Asking you about the friends you’re making and being interested in your social life too; asking you your new friends’ names and what they’re like. I’m always interested in your everyday activities - where you have your meals, where you go shopping, the surrounding countryside. I always love you sending pictures at different times of the year. I hope you like the photos of home we send back!
Sam: I love them, I print them out and they’re on my desk!
Dad: You always seemed to enjoy the letters I sent you, Sam.
Sam: I love them, yes! I keep them all in a special folder.
Mum: Oh yeah, and the Christmas and birthday care packages we send you. Other people’s kids might like a cuddly toy like the ones we sent you, like a koala or something that reminds them of home, or a mascot for their favourite sports team.
Sam: Any final thoughts on how parents can support their kids' mental health at university?
Mum: You need to ask your kid, ask them to express what they find helpful from what we do as parents. Ask them what they would find helpful and when they need it. Obviously, when it’s exam time, these are the times that they need some more support. So get a timetable and get an idea of when their high stress times are, when they would need some more support. Talk about how they’re going to manage and also what’s going to happen afterwards. Helping them plan their future, giving them career guidance. Keep them positive by letting them know that although they’re doing a degree, they have their whole life afterwards.
Dad: Love and trust. It’s all a mixture of those two things. You can’t beat those two things. Kids need to hear that there’s nothing that we won't do for them if we can.