Tips for Parents
MSU Counseling Center Tips for Parents
Even when you're not seeing your son or daughter regularly, many parents can hear a difference in the way their sons or daughters sound on the phone-changes in mood, energy, tone of voice.
The Counseling Center is available to help with your concerns about your son or daughter through the process of consultation. During a consultation with a member of our staff, usually by phone, we listen to your concerns and offer some advice or recommendations about what you can do. Generally, we assist you in working further with the student rather than contacting the student ourselves. In so doing, we are respecting the student's right to privacy and self determination in seeking psychological assistance. Be aware that without the student's explicit permission, we are not able to disclose information about your son or daughter, except in real emergencies.
You might find this link helpful in understanding some of the adjustment issues of first year students. On this page, there is an interactive section for parents as well.
When to consider a consultation
Look for changes in a student's behavior, including appearance, lower academic functioning, level of energy or interest. For example, missing classes or work may reflect difficulty sleeping at night, trouble being in public, fear of disappointing others by a low performance. Behavior that is out of the typical range for university students may also represent a psychological problem. Or a general sense of depression (the blues) may be reason to consult the Counseling Center.
How to bring it up...
Should you be concerned about your son or daughter, here are several tips to consider. The Counseling Center is available for consultation or referral, if necessary.
If a student appears troubled but does not tell you so, you can broach the subject in a caring, supportive way. It's often a relief to students having difficulties to know that people they care about notice what's going on. Here are some suggestions of how to start a conversation:
· I'm concerned about you. I've noticed you have been looking (or sounding) tired and you seem as if there's a lot on your mind lately. Would you like to talk about how things are going for you?
· You mentioned that you've been missing classes lately, and that can set you back a lot. I'm bringing this up because I care about you. Is there anything going on that is getting in your way?
· I'm concerned about how you are doing. Your grades are lower than usual this semester. Is there something that's keeping you from studying or learning?
How to talk about it
Whether you broach the topic or a student does, it is often very helpful to talk about a student's concern to the extent you feel comfortable. Make sure to have privacy and some time without interruption. Here are some tips for empathic listening:
Listen, listen, listen...Let the student tell his or her story without interrupting.
Don't try to solve a problem too quickly with advice or reassurance...Let the student express emotion (often it has been building up or bottled up)...Let the person know it is all right to talk to you about personal concerns...Avoid questions that can seem like blame, minimizing or judgment...Show that the situation is one many students have dealt with (if that is true)...Ask if the student has found anything that helps with the problem...Show that you understand the importance of any relationships that might be causing conflict or disappointment.
This link might be helpful in preparing you to talk with your son or daughter about a variety high risk situations pertaining to alcohol use: www.collegeparentsmatter.org
Referring to the Counseling Center
Some students may be reluctant on their own to contact the Counseling Center. You can address this reluctance by letting them know that hundreds of students use the Counseling Center every year and counseling is a part of general health care, with a focus on emotional and interpersonal satisfaction. It helps students to hear that seeking counseling is not a sign of weakness, "craziness," or an inability to handle one's own problems, but rather a sign of strength in facing challenges and seeking out resources. Note to the student that services are confidential and free. You can give the student our brochure (call our office if you would like a copy) or phone number (443-885-3130). Take a look at the rest of our website so that you can be familiar with our services and comfortably tell your son or daughter about us, or suggest that the student go to the Morgan webpage and type "counseling" into the search box.