Families and friends of U of T students can be a major source of support and encouragement for their student. Students reported in the National Study on Student Engagement (NSSE) that 70% of them typically followed advice of parents when offered. 

We want to provide you with some tools to support and encourage your student, and promote their independence at U of T.

Sometimes parents want to participate and attend the workshops and events provided by the University of Toronto. You will find that our offerings are purposely designed for students to build on their own strengths to navigate and succeed independently at university. We encourage you to attend one of the webinars and events created for parents and supporters.

Mother listening to daughter speak

Supportive listening

Communication with your student is key during this point in their life. Your relationship is going to change. That can be a positive thing, but also difficult for both of you. To help strengthen your relationship and support this transition, you may want to practice some supportive listening.

Try these tips:

  • Be present. Whether you are in-person, on the phone or using Zoom, give them your full attention.
  • Listen to understand instead of thinking about how you are going to reply. Practicing this will also help you reserve judgement and allow your student to open up more.
  • Ask open-ended questions. Don’t interrogate them, but try asking questions that give them a chance to expand about their experiences. For example, instead of “Are you nervous about your exams coming up?” Try, “Which exams are you feeling confident about and which ones do you feel you’ve got some more work to do?”

Younger woman with arm around older woman


Students report that they feel a lot of pressure and are afraid of letting their families and friends down. Some fear disappointments if they admit that they are struggling or finding a transition challenging.  

It may be tempting to try to solve their problem or tell them to “come home”, but what students said they wanted most in these times was a cheerleader. They want someone who believes in their resilience and their ability to overcome the obstacles they are facing.

Try these tips:

  • Remind your student that they are human and all of us face obstacles at one time or another.
  • Tell them that you believe in them and that you know that with some support they will figure this out.
  • Focus their attention on past successes and how they have overcome obstacles in the past.
  • Point them toward resources that can help support them.

Younger man & older man smiling and talking


For referring students to an appropriate resource, U of T Health & Wellness has a great module for students, staff, friends and family. Focused on mental health resources, this module provides step-by-step instructions on making an effective referral. It will take about 20 minutes to complete, and the steps are transferable to most referrals you may need to make.  

Try this: