Frequently Asked Questions: Answers for Parents

How can I let my child be more independent?

Here is some advice from parents:

“Let your child do what he/she wants within certain limits. If kids really feel the decisions are in their hands, it’s better.”
“You always have to be willing to listen, even if you don’t like what you’re hearing. No matter what time of night or day, show him/her that you can stop what you’re doing and listen, and offer suggestions if they are wanted. I think if parents say, ‘Our responsibility is over now that you’re in college,’ the child misses that family support.”

What can I do to help my child from a distance?

  • Be a good listener and tell him or her that you're there for them.
  • Show interest in your child's studies and personal growth.
  • Have an open mind. Your teen is learning how to be independent.
  • Encourage your son/daughter.
  • Don’t set unrealistic expectations. Remember, your dream for your child may not be his/her dream. Don’t push your child. The teen who received all A's in high school may do poorly in college and, as a first-year student, he or she may be learning how to study for the first time.
  • Stay in touch. Agree to weekly times for calls home.
  • Make the most of visits home. Do things together.
  • Send care packages. You may not get a thank-you every time, but the mail is appreciated.
  • Keep the lines of communication open. Don’t be afraid to discuss your feelings with your son/daughter.
  • Encourage your child to get involved, make new friends, and develop new interests.

Letting go is both overrated and underrated. The emotional recipe for launching teenagers is to gradually let go of your responsibility for your child's decisions and behavior, while holding on to accountability and promoting warm, age-appropriate connections. Negotiate for a few firmly held rules and one family connection per week.

How do I know if my child is experiencing adjustment issues or a real problem? When should I get involved?

Adjusting to college will affect students in different ways. Typically, students adjust to the stress of college life within the first few months. There are times, however, when students continue to have trouble coping. For example, you may notice that the number of tearful calls to home outnumber the others or that your child’s appearance has changed dramatically --- e.g. was clean cut, now disheveled.

Some other behaviors to watch for: a change from consistently good grades to unaccountably poor performance, absence from classes, changes in behavior (stops calling home, has mood swings, starts drinking or using drugs), depressed mood, low energy, or suicidal thoughts. If these behaviors are present, it is critical that you get involved! You can help. Encourage your child to share his or her feelings with you and to stay active with friends, school, and hobbies. You can also encourage your child to seek counseling.

How will it be when my child comes home for break?

Don’t be too surprised if your college student resents any changes at home. Many college students want home to be just the way they remembered it. Often they’re not pleased to hear that a younger sibling has taken over their old bedroom. It may be better to downplay the positive changes in the family, at least at first, so that your child doesn’t feel that the family is glad to have him/her gone.

Sometimes when your son or daughter comes home, you realize that your child has had another life elsewhere and that his/her old life doesn’t fit him/her in the same way it used to. You may feel hurt, rejected, and redundant — like your child doesn’t need you anymore.

As one parent put it:

“When my son was home for a three-day weekend, I kept trying to make food he would love. I said, ‘I’ll cook this, I’ll cook that,’ and finally he said, ‘What are you doing? Leave me alone.’ But I felt I just had to make everything perfect so he’d have a good time at home—it was tense."

How can the counseling center help?

We are available for consultation to parents by phone, appointment, or e-mail. We invite parents to call or visit our web site to learn how their son or daughter can obtain counseling. We can address your questions about how you may assist your son and daughter who may be struggling with a specific problem or if they are in need of specific services. Moreover, we can assist parents in securing referrals for services outside of the college.

"My son has been acting differently lately. He’s been quieter, is sleeping all the time, and never calls home. I recently learned he failed two classes. He told me he just started seeing a counselor. Can I call the counseling office and find out what’s going on? I want to be helpful."

We are not able to talk with parents in any way about their child’s participation in therapy without the student’s written consent. Confidentiality is a very important part of the therapeutic relationship we establish with students. We encourage parents who want information about their son's or daughter's progress to talk with their child.

What does the Personal Counseling Office do?

The Personal Counseling Office at Behrend offers brief, one-on-one psychotherapy to students. We have a licensed psychologist and a consulting psychiatrist on staff, along with several counselors, a case manager and an outreach program coordinator. We are also responsible for crisis intervention, referrals, and various outreach programs. All of our services are free and confidential.

"But my child doesn’t have a serious problem; he just needs some guidance. Can he still come in to see a counselor?"

Yes! The personal counselors at Behrend see a wide range of problems such as stress, depression, anxiety, and relationship issues. We encourage students with any concern to stop in and see us.