How Parents Can Help Their Child
We sometimes hear from parents that they are concerned about a child's well-being. You may have noticed changes that trouble you, such as differences in your child's speech, behavior, appearance, or academic performance. Here are some guidelines to follow when you are concerned about your child:
- Talk openly with your child about how he or she is doing, both in general and in various areas of college life (e.g. academics, friendships, romantic relationships, extracurricular activities).
- Listen and be patient with your child's adjustment process. Offer to be a sounding board as he or she navigates new transitions.
- Understand your child is growing and changing, and not every change is a sign that something is wrong. For many parents, it is difficult to adjust having a who is a legal adult who is no longer at home and who confides in you less. It can be helpful to check in with other parents of college-aged students to determine which changes are likely to be normal and which may be warning signs.
- Encourage your child to reach out for support when needed (e.g. Residence Life, Academic Success Center, Dean of Students, Spiritual Life, Counseling Center).
- Contact the Counseling Center to consult about how to best help your child*.
- Fill out a Student of Concern form if you would like a select group of professionals on campus to monitor the situations and intervene if necessary.
- If your child is in immediate physical danger, click here.
- Don't handle a crisis alone. Call family, friends, neighbors, people from your place of worship or people form a local support group to help you.
If you have a feeling that something is wrong with your child, please tell someone. Know that there are people on campus who will share your concern and help.
*Remember, the Counseling Center cannot disclose personal information without student consent.
How to Talk to Your Child About Your Concerns
- Do make sure you both have a quiet, private place to talk. If possible, arrange a phone call when you both have plenty of time or talk, or come to campus to speak to your child directly.
- Do express that you love and care about your child and are concerned about his or her well-being.
- Do stay calm and be present. Talk slowly and use reassuring tones. If your child is upset, encourage him or her to breathe and take his or her time when talking.
- Do ask simple questions. Repeat them if necessary, using the same words each time.
- Do validate by repeating or paraphrasing what your child is saying, or reflecting what he or she is feeling
"I love you." "I'm worried about you." "I want to help." "How can I help?" "I hear how difficult this has been." "I see that you are angry/sad/afraid."
- If you have historically had a strong, positive relationship with your child, do call upon that history to encourage your child to get help (e.g. "I know you don't want to, but could you do this for me?").
- Don't have important conversations via text.
- Don't express anger or frustration, even though you may have good reasons to feel annoyed by your child.
- Don't invalidate by criticizing or minimizing your child's experiences.
- Don't threaten to call Public Safety unless you intend to do so. When you call Public Safety, police and/or ambulance are likely to come. This may make your child more upset, so use this option only when he or she is in immediate danger.
- Don't invalidate by criticizing or minimizing your friend's experiences.
Don't say "Snap out of it." "Get over it." "Stop acting crazy." "There's nothing wrong."