Sending a child to college is a growth process for both parent and child. A parent can often be one of the first people to notice changes in their child’s mood and behavior. The relationship can be challenging when you know your child is struggling and you are trying to navigate how much you can do. Parents have the job of navigating the difficult balance of supporting, protecting, and advocating, along with empowering your child to establish a sense of their own independence. When students make their own decisions and develop the skills of caring for themselves, they will have gained a skill for life. Below are steps parents can take:
- Have an honest conversation with your child, express your concerns, and listen to what they have to say.
- By being familiar with the resources on campus, you can discuss options for your student and encourage them to connect to campus support services.
- If you are still concerned that your student may be at risk and want to alert the college to your child’s situation, you may contact your student’s Class Dean listed on the Dean of Students' website.
If you need additional resources and information, the information on “How to Help a Student” is relevant to parents and the whole community. In addition, the following link will take you to a comprehensive guide written by National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) and the JED Foundation: Starting the Conversation: College and Your Mental Health.
Confidentiality and Parents
Confidentiality is an essential part of any counseling relationship. Counseling and Psychological Services staff adhere to the ethical standards of their respective professions and to state and federal laws relating to confidentiality. These standards and laws prevent us from speaking with concerned parents about their student’s contact with the Center unless we have the student’s written permission. Thus, unless your student gives us written permission, we cannot acknowledge whether your student has been seen at the Center or is making progress in counseling. The only exceptions occur when a student is under 17.5 years of age, when we are concerned that a student is clearly and imminently suicidal, when we learn of ongoing child abuse, or when we are ordered to release confidential information by a court of law.
Many students prefer to keep their counseling completely private, and such privacy is typically vital for successful counseling. Assuming your student is, however, willing to have one of the counselors discuss her or his participation in counseling with you, one good way to arrange for this is by asking your student to have the counselor call you during a counseling session. The counselor will then have your student complete and sign the necessary form, and may call you using a “speaker telephone,” so that all concerned can participate in the conversation. Note that, in general, counseling is best served if everything parents have to share with their student’s counselor is also shared with their student.
Even if your student doesn’t give her or his counselor permission to provide information to you, you may choose to contact a counselor to share your concerns. Such contact may make sense, for example, if you are concerned that your student is in serious danger. Note, however, that the counselor will not be able to even acknowledge knowing your student, and that the counselor will want to discuss any information you provide with your student.
Please contact someone at Counseling and Psychological Services if you have any questions about our confidentiality standards (610-328-8059).