Information for Parents and Families of Students
Help for Parents
As a parent, you will often hear directly about how your son or daughter is adjusting to college and the many academic, social, and lifestyle changes in their lives. You may also infer how they are doing based on their behavior and/or attitude. It can be good to ask questions about your child's experiences at college. It is okay to ask if:
- They drank at a party and how much.
- They are going to class and studying
- They are making new friends, yet, still keeping in contact with some old friends
- They are still grieving for the loss of a friend
- They have gotten over their recent breakup
- They are meeting their performance expectations on their tests
- They are they exploring academic areas so they can declare a major
After hearing information regarding some of these issues, you may become alarmed or worried about your son or daughter. If you are wondering if their experience is normal, or if there is something you can do to help, or if there are services on campus that may help your child, you are welcome to call us for a consultation at (859) 257-8701. We often speak with concerned parents to help them be as supportive as possible to their child.
Tips for Supporting Your Son or Daughter When She or He is in Distress
- The most important way to be supportive is to listen and try to be nonjudgmental and uncritical. (It is hard at times not to say "I warned you" or "I told you so" but this is rarely helpful)
- Spend time with your child if possible. Just being present even when there is silence is helpful.
- Let them know that you care and that you are willing to listen. Say so directly.
- Be encouraging and hopeful that the problem will eventually resolve and they will eventually feel better, while also letting them know that you understand the problem is important to them (otherwise they wouldn't be in so much distress).
- You want to help your child to take action and feel better but do not try to help them solve the problem until you have taken the time to listen.
- You want your child to develop problem solving skills. Ask them what things they think might help before you offer your own solutions. Unless you are concerned about your child's safety, encourage and support them in trying out their own solutions before you insist they try yours.
- When your child is in distress, it is okay to share similar experiences or feelings but do not make yourself the focus of the conversation.
- Reassure your child that you will respect their privacy, but avoid promising total secrecy in case you need to reveal something to keep your child safe.
- Be clear that while you want to be helpful, there are limits to your support and expertise. Encourage them to speak to a professional when what they need is beyond what you can provide.
- Tell your child that it is a positive sign to seek help when you need it, and that we all do so from time to time. It is a sign of maturity to know when you need help and to ask for it.
- If you are concerned that your child may be thinking about suicide, ask directly. Say "are you thinking about suicide?" Do not say "you aren't thinking about suicide, are you?" as this gives the impression that you do not really want to know if the answer is "yes."
- Recommend or strongly suggest that your child see a counselor at the Counseling Center rather than telling them they must go, unless the situation is urgent.
- Follow up and find out how your child is doing and whether things are changing.
When you call us for a consultation, we can talk with you about how to provide the above experiences for your child.
Tips for Encouraging Your Child to Go to Counseling
- Talk directly about your concern for your child.
- Specifically describe the behaviors and the moods that you have observed in your child that concern you.
- State how you see these behaviors/moods having a negative effect on your child.
- Encourage getting help to remove these negative effects.
- Emphasize that a professional listener can be more objective than you can.
- Emphasize that seeking help is a sign of health, strength, and maturity.
- Emphasize that talking to a professional is confidential (i.e. you won't know what your child talks about unless your child wants to tell you).
- Share your own positive experiences with getting help, if applicable.
- Reveal any family history of depression or other mental health disorders.
When you call us for a consultation, we can talk with you about effective ways to encourage your child to seek help at the University of Kentucky Counseling Center: Consultation and Psychological Services.
Once a student comes to UKCC and becomes a client of our center, we can receive information from you about that student. However, we cannot reveal any information to you about the student, including whether or not the student has continued to come to UKCC. The client may waive the right to confidentiality, giving us permission to share information with you, by signing a "Release of Information" statement (Form is a PDF document.) The release form must be completed, signed, and dated. It can be hand-delivered, faxed to (859) 257-3319, or mailed to the Counseling Center at 106 Frazee Hall Lexington, KY 40506-0031. If this form is faxed or mailed, we may require independent verification from the client that this release is authentic and should be acted upon