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p2p logoParent to Parent: a buddying scheme for new parents

Parent to Parent (P2P) is an initiative of the Parents@TUOS network. It aims to support staff and postgraduate students preparing for, taking, or returning from parental leave by providing an informal mentor or supporter, known as a buddy.

Who are the buddies?

Buddies are staff or students with personal experience of taking and returning from parental leave. They are volunteers drawn from all staff categories and they represent a range of career stages. Most buddies are female, but men are welcome to participate in the scheme if they feel they can offer support as a buddy, or would benefit from being supported themselves. Anyone with the right experience can volunteer to be a buddy, but it is hoped that volunteers will have:

  • the ability to listen without judging
  • the ability to show empathy
  • a willingness to share experiences
  • when asked, a willingness to offer appropriate advice
  • the time to make themselves available to the person they are supporting for approximately an hour a month.

Click here to see buddy profiles.

Who can get support from a buddy?

Any member of staff or any postgraduate student who is considering, planning, taking or returning from parental leave can approach any of the buddies. They will qualify for buddy support at any point from discovering they are pregnant, or their partner is pregnant, up to a year after their return from parental leave.

How does the scheme work?

P2P has been designed to run with as little bureaucracy as possible. Participants choose their own buddies, contact their chosen buddy directly and run their own buddying relationship with little or no intervention.

P2P buddies write a short biography to a given format, setting out their experiences of parental leave, their top tips for other parents taking leave and their contact details. The biographies are added to the database so that staff wanting a buddy can peruse the buddies available, select one that best suits their needs, and contact them directly to ask if they are available for an exploratory meeting. If the buddy is able to take on a new mentee at that time, an exploratory meeting is set up at which the pair discusses the mentee’s needs and the extent to which the buddy could help. Afterwards both parties will be able to reflect for a short time and then confirm whether they wish to proceed with the relationship. Both must feel able to decline to continue if they do not feel the match is a good one. In this circumstance the mentee will be able to approach another buddy.

From time to time a small amount of evaluation will be carried out to identify any useful improvements that could be made to the scheme and to highlight the benefits.


Confidentiality is a key feature of P2P (and indeed of any mentoring relationship, formal or informal). The content of the discussions between the pair should be viewed as confidential by both parties, and it is recognised that sometimes those requesting buddy support may not want their participation in the scheme to be widely known (for example at an early stage of pregnancy). This is a topic which should be discussed by the participants at their first meeting.


The length of the buddying relationship will be up to the individuals involved to determine. Some relationships will last just a few months, others perhaps over 2 years. As a rough guide it is envisaged that in many cases the need for support will start 3 or 4 months before the period of parental leave starts and continue for up to a year after returning from leave. If a buddy is unable to continue supporting a parent preparing for, taking or returning from leave (for example because of illness or because they leave the university), that parent is welcome to revisit the Parents@TUOS website and approach a new potential buddy.


If you would like to become a buddy, or stop being a buddy, or if you have other questions about the running of the programme, please send a message to parentsnetwork@sheffield.ac.uk.

If you have concerns or questions of a more personal nature or would like to talk to someone in complete confidence about any aspect of participating in this programme please contact the Chair of the Parents@TUOS Network, Louise Preston (l.r.preston@sheffield.ac.uk).

Tips for making the best of your buddying relationship

  • At your initial exploratory meeting discuss the mentee’s circumstances, the kind of challenges arising and the support desired. If, at this early stage, you are not sure that the match is a good one (because, for example, the buddy lacks relevant experience, or because there is a notable difference in personalities which might make discussion difficult) it is best to be honest with each other and stop there. No one is to blame and a new potential buddy can be approached.
  • Once you have agreed to work together find out a bit about each other’s past experiences, career paths and lives outside work, looking for things you have in common. This common ground helps you to build rapport and trust.
  • Discuss the topic of confidentiality openly at an early stage. What do you both understand by this term and how will you respect this in the context of your relationship? Does either party have any concerns?
  • Work out the best way of contacting each other before, during and after parental leave. Discuss how often you aim to be in contact. Ensure this frequency works for you both.
  • You may decide to set yourselves some targets, objectives or goals to help provide focus to your discussions. These can of course be amended as you go along.
  • Take a few notes at your meetings, or immediately afterwards, so you can remember what was said and refer back to these the next time you meet.
  • If you are very pressed for time and meeting face to face becomes difficult, consider staying in touch by email or scheduling a phone call.
  • Store any emails in a safe place remembering the need for confidentiality.
  • Whilst away from the university on parental leave, contact with a buddy may be difficult. If the new parent is coming into the University for Keep In Touch (KIT) day, this may be an excellent chance to meet over lunch or for a coffee.
  • Both buddy and new parent are able to step out of P2P at any time. If you need to stop participating in P2P because your circumstances change, or if you want to stop for any reason, contact your P2P partner and simply, but politely, tell them you can no longer work with them. Mentees should thank the buddy for the time and support they have provided and, if they wish, they can return to the P2P web page to identify another buddy.
  • If you no longer wish to be a buddy please send a message to parentsnetwork@sheffield.ac.uk and ask for your profile to be removed from the website. If you are a new volunteer please send a request for a buddy proforma. Complete this and return it loading on to the site.
  • If someone approaches a buddy to ask for support but that buddy is already supporting a new parent and doesn’t feel able to take on another, he/she should simply say so. The new parent is welcome to keep approaching buddies until a suitable match is found. 
  • Don’t forget that a buddy is just a volunteer trying to help – not a specialist. If more specialist advice/support is required see the links on Parents@TUOS website or liaise in confidence with the Chair of the Parents@TUOS Network, Louise Preston (l.r.preston@sheffield.ac.uk).