It’s commonly assumed that a strong relationship with parents is an essential part of growing up, but this is not the case for everyone. Every student at Sussex will have a different relationship with their parents, which will most likely be subject to significant change during their time at university. But is this relationship crucial? And, at some point, is it even beneficial?

After several conversations with Sussex students it became clear that a strong relationship with a parent is not essential, but it is generally a good thing. The support system provided by a parent or caregiver is not easily replaced by anything else, especially when one first begins university and needs advice on their first load of washing or a reassuring word about how to make friends. However, as you gain a greater sense of independence, this reliance starts to disappear – you start to grow up.

The Badger interviewed several students about what their relationship with their parents had been like since coming to Sussex – all responded that their relationships had actually gotten stronger. One student, Oliwia, said “I make more of an effort to speak to them, as there is more to talk about and discuss because we both live our separate lives.”

Another student, Rachael, commented, “I feel like I’m less dependent on them, I can see a point of my life without them because of the independence that university has provided me.”

Moving out to university can strengthen relationships with parents, as you gain greater independence so you and your parents or caregiver can watch each other flourish from afar without friction. Another student, Dylan, mentioned the effects of physical distance between him and his parents when moving out, “When you don’t see someone for a while it makes you realise how much you miss them.” 

Moving away from home is daunting, and can create a sense of loneliness. Scheduling phone calls and regularly chatting to parents can limit this feeling, and create a stronger support system if needed. All the students we talked to said that they regularly text their parents every few days, with some students scheduling calls with their parents. Oliwia stated that “on average, we facetime every week, typically on a Sunday. I like to update them on my uni life.” However, not all students keep in regular contact, with one revealing “I don’t call my parents unless it’s urgent. We text occasionally, but I don’t need to keep them in the loop of my daily life.” Whilst regular communication can limit that sense of isolation for some students, it is not essential for others. 

The students also had mixed responses about whether maintaining a good relationship with parents is actually needed. Oliwia stated that it is necessary because “we’re in a new environment which people aren’t familiar with, so a good relationship with a parent can provide support and comfort.” Dylan believes it’s not necessary but certainly beneficial as “many students experience university without parents, but [they can give] both emotional and financial support.” Both Rachael and Lynne declared that because you become your own person at university a sound relationship with your parents is not the be all and end all. Rachael considered her relationship with her parents “’to provide no negative impact whatsoever, but when moving back home my mum drives me up the wall, as I get so used to the space between us.” Other students also noted that their relationships with their parents provided more motivation and drive towards their studies, with one student saying “they seem proud of me, which motivates me to do well.” 

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