Parent & Family Information & Resources
For many young adults, college is the first time in an entirely new environment, away from everything that is familiar to them – friends, family, home, community. According to a UCLA study, more than 30% of university first years reported feeling overwhelmed a great deal of the time during the beginning of college. Unfortunately, research reflects that 2/3 of the students who feel this way never tell anyone and never seek help!
Pennsylvania College of Technology has many resources available to students to assist with both academic and personal concerns. An important resource at Penn College is the Counseling Services office. One way in which you can be enormously helpful to your child is to maintain regular communication, ask how things are going, and encourage him or her to seek help if needed. In addition to providing support for your son or daughter, you can also suggest that he or she schedule an appointment with a counselor to discuss issues and concerns.
The college years are an exciting yet challenging time for students and their parents, a time of significant change and growth. For most students, parents continue to play an important role in their lives. It is our hope that the information below will assist you as you help your student navigate through the challenges that may arise during his or her years at Penn College.
- Providing Support
- Supporting Yourself
- Signs of a Potential Problem
- Dealing with a Difficulty or Crisis
- Making a Referral
- How Counseling Services Can Help You
- Confidentiality & Parent Communication with Counseling Services
- Related Articles
Although college students may want and need to become more autonomous during this period, it is important for them to know you are still available. Maintaining a supportive relationship can be critical, particularly during the first year of college. If you and your son or daughter were not particularly close prior to leaving home, it is still important for you to convey your support. You may be surprised to find that some space and distance from your son or daughter can help improve your relationships with them.
It is important to maintain regular contact with your son or daughter, but also to allow space for him or her to approach you and set the agenda for some of your conversations. Let your student know that you respect and support his or her right to make independent decisions and that you will serve as an advocate and an advisor when asked. Finally, recognize that is normal for college students to seek help one day and reject it the next. Such behavior can be confusing and exhausting for parents, so make sure to take care of yourself by talking about your feelings with your own support system.
Be realistic and specific with your son or daughter about financial issues, including what you will and will not pay for, as well as your expectations for how they will spend money.
It is also important to be realistic about academic performance, recognizing that not every straight-A student in high school will be a straight-A student in college. Help your son or daughter set reasonable academic goals; and encourage them to seek academic assistance when needed.
The fact that your child has left home does not necessarily prevent family problems from arising or continuing. Refrain from burdening your student with problems from home that he or she has no control over and can do nothing about. Sharing these problems may cause him or her to worry excessively and even feel guilty that they are away from home and unable to help.
- Recognize that it is normal to have mixed feelings when your child leaves home. Feelings of pain and loss often accompany separation from loved ones. It is also normal to feel a sense of relief when your child leaves for college, and to look forward to some time alone, or with your significant other, or with your younger children.
- Do your best to develop and maintain your own social support.
- Do your best to maintain your own sense of well-being. This may involve eating and sleeping well, exercising, and setting new and creative goals for yourself. Perhaps this is a good time to do some of things you put off while your child was growing up—taking on a project or hobby can be an excellent way to channel your energy and feelings.
Signs of a Potential Problem
As parents, you may observe behavioral signs or changes that concern you. These may include:
- Social withdrawal
- Excessive crying or mood changes
- Change in academic habits
- Thinking about suicide and or death
- Abrasive or threatening behavior
- Preoccupation with weight, food, or appetite
- Dramatic weight loss or gain
- Increases in pessimism, hopelessness, or helplessness
- Sleeping more than usual, waking up often, or having trouble falling asleep
- Excessive drinking or partying
- Difficulty concentrating and focusing
- Low self-confidence
- Loss of energy and motivation
Dealing with a Difficulty or Crisis
As a parent you may be in a good position to help your student acknowledge that there is a problem. Talking promptly, openly, and caringly about your observations and concerns will likely have the best result. Here are a few suggestions on how to respond to changes you may observe in your son or daughter.
- Don’t “put off until tomorrow.” Gently raise your concerns with your son or daughter as soon as you notice problems. Ignoring disturbing behavior is unlikely to “make it go away.”
- Have a caring, concerned nonjudgmental discussion of your concerns. Choose a time and place carefully to allow for a private and honest discussion.
- Listen at least as much as you talk.
- Avoid the tendency to be critical or judgmental.
- Avoid the temptation to offer easy solutions to problems or to “take care of everything” for your son or daughter.
- Know your own limits. Do not feel pressured to take on the problems yourself. Penn College staff may be better trained to help students with specific concerns. Being able to refer your daughter or son to College resources is a vital role you can play.
Making a Referral
Please encourage your son or daughter to call Counseling Services to schedule an intake appointment. Often students are hesitant to seek out counseling, and your encouragement can facilitate them getting the services they need. Let them know that we see a wide range of problems at Counseling Services and no issue is too small or too big for a consultation.
Counseling Services, located in the Bush Campus Center, room 204, is open Monday – Friday, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Students are encouraged to call 570-327-4765 to schedule an intake appointment. Usually intake appointments can be scheduled within a few days. If the matter is urgent, the student can come directly to Counseling Services and ask to speak with a counselor who will do an initial assessment of the situation. After hours on weekdays and on weekends a counselor on-call is always available by telephone. Students can access the on-call counselor through their Residence Hall staff or by contacting College police.
How Counseling Services Can Help You
We are always available for consultations with concerned parents. A counselor can discuss your concerns about your daughter or son’s well being and may help to confirm or dispel them. We can help you facilitate a referral to Counseling Services. We are a resource for you as well as for students.
Confidentiality & Parent Communication with Counseling Services
Ethical and legal obligations prohibit Counseling Center staff members from releasing information without a signed release. Therefore, counselors are prevented from speaking with parents about their student’s contact with Counseling Services unless we have his or her written consent. Without this consent, we cannot acknowledge whether or not your son or daughter has had contact with our office, or discuss his or her progress in counseling. One notable exception occurs when the student may be an imminent danger to self or others.
Many students prefer to keep his or her counseling completely private. The freedom to talk with a counselor and be assured that the conversation will remain private can be the best support that parents can provide. Please let your son or daughter decide if and how much or how little to share with you.
Even if your student doesn’t give his or her counselor permission to provide information, you may choose to contact a counselor to share your concerns. Such contact may make sense, for example, if you are concerned that your son or daughter is in serious danger. Note, however, that the counselor will not be able to acknowledge knowing your student, and that the counselor will want to discuss any information that you provide with your son or daughter.
Sections adapted from University of Chicago Student Counseling Services with permission from the administrative director on December 9, 2011and from Abilene Christian University Counseling Center with permission from the director on January 30, 2012.