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Parents, Family, and Friends

The Role of Families and Caregivers

The road to getting to college is a long one, filled with preparing, studying, sacrificing, taking SATs and decision-making. Often times, this is the first time students are away from home, practicing more independence and learning how to manage responsibilities. For families, this can be a time of mixed emotions: excitement, anxiety, anticipation and uncertainty. Some ways to proactively support your student’s well-being include:

  • Thinking about: what is my new role and relationship to my student? What can I do to help set them up to start on the right foot?
  • Work with your student to identify solutions, preventative measures and action plans once a problem is identified
  • Acknowledge your student’s strengths and growing independence
  • Recognize there will be challenges along the way and help manage expectations and needs
  • Provide steady coaching and encouragement. Encourage your student to deal with issues as they come up and provide some coaching along the way (help them think about who they need to email, what information they may need, etc.)
  • When your student returns home for break and has new found independence, communicate around expectations for “house rules” and come up with a compromise
  • Practice self-care

Identifying Signs of Distress

The road can suddenly get harder than anticipated, and you may notice or sense that your student is having significant academic, emotional, and/or social difficulties. While most students will be able to manage these challenges, some will find that they are too difficult and overwhelming to handle. Your role as a parent is also a challenging one. While your student might be away from home, you may still be the first person to notice a change in your child’s behavior, mood, or attitude. It is important to know the signs of distress and how to get help. Below is a non-exhaustive list of some signs of distress:

  • Suddenly or slowly stops sharing details of how things are going
  • Your student calls home much more frequently than you both planned or wants to come home more than usual for them
  • Your student never calls or does not answer calls, which is different than the usual amount of contact
  • Your student never wants to come home
  • When they come home for a visit or holiday, they continue to express that they do not want to return
  • Your student’s attitude shifts where they seem more unhappy, anxious, withdrawn, more negative than usual
  • Stops attending class, infrequent attendance with little or no work completed
  • Dramatic weight loss or weight gain
  • Excessive requests /need for money
  • Marked changes in personal hygiene
  • Impaired speech or garbled, disjointed thoughts
  • Suicidal thoughts, either directly (referring to suicide as an option), or indirectly (“It doesn’t matter…I won’t be here for the final exam.”)
  • High levels of irritability, aggressive, or abrasive behavior
  • Inability to make decisions despite repeated attempts to clarify and to encourage
  • Trust your instincts

How to Intervene if you Sense Distress

If you have a sense that your student is in distress, here are a few suggestions:

  • Have an open, direct and caring conversation with your student about what you are noticing or are concerned about. Be specific.
  • Be present and leave the door open for your student to talk. Think about how often you want to jump in with suggestions, advise or reactions.
  • Limit judgment and share honest reactions.
  • Help your student identify the root of the problem and create an action plan. With minor distress, sometimes helping your student figure out why they are feeling the way they are and coming up with a plan can be helpful.
  • Offer to come to campus to visit or invite student to come home for the weekend, if possible.
  • Suggest campus support: this could be in the form of contacting academic advisors, tutoring and writing Center, coaches, campus ministry, Student Health Center, Resident Advisors, and/or the Counseling Center.
  • You may wish to speak with your student about seeking professional help. Direct them to the Counseling Center to schedule an appointment (call 215.895.1415, email counseling@drexel.edu or walk in at 201 Creese Student Center).
  • If your student needs immediate attention due to an emergency, contact the Counseling Center at 215.895.1415 during regular business hours. If a crisis occurs after normal business hours or on a weekend or holiday, you or your student may call the on-call counselor at 215.416.3337.

Please be aware that the staff of the Counseling Center is available to consult with you about any concerns you have about a student. We can help you to assess the situation, determine when and how to intervene, and direct you to possible resources on- or off-campus. To consult with a counselor, please call us at 215.895.1415 or email counseling@drexel.edu.

The Role of Friends

Often times, friends and peers might be the first ones - or sometimes, the only ones - that know when a friend is in distress. You can play an essential role by expressing your concerns in a non-judgmental, caring way. You can start the conversation by:

  • Find a private place to talk. Put distractions aside.
  • Be specific about your concerns and direct in your observations.
  • Help your friend feel understood, cared for, and not alone.
  • Recognize that change may happen in stages, and your friend may or may not be open to your advice or concerns the first conversation.
  • If appropriate, suggest that your friend get more help. Let them know about the Counseling Center and how to make an appointment (call 215.895.1415, email counseling@drexel.edu or walk in at 201 Creese Student Center).
  • Know your limits. If you are worried about your friend’s safety, reach out for help. You can call the Counseling Center at 215.895.1415 during business hours or use the on-call counselor at 215.416.3337 for after hours.

What to Do in an Emergency/Crisis

Often times, friends and peers might be the first ones - or sometimes, the only ones - that know when a friend is in distress. You can play an essential role by expressing your concerns in a non-judgmental, caring way. You can start the conversation by:

  • If you are concerned for your student’s imminent safety, call 911 or Drexel Police (215.895.2222).
  • It is okay to ask your student if they are thinking about hurting or killing themselves.
  • Communicate your concern and desire to keep them safe.
  • Send a clear message: “You are not alone,” “I am concerned about you,” “I want to help you get the support you need,”
  • Email the Counseling Center at counseling@drexel.edu to consult with a clinician if you are uncertain. If you need immediate assistance for an emergency, call the on-call phone at 215.416.3337 and speak with a Counseling Center clinician.

Confidentiality

The Counseling Center is ethically and legally bound to adhere to confidentiality and we strictly protect the confidentiality of information shared in treatment by our students. This means that the Center cannot share information with anyone, including whether or not someone is coming to the Center for services. This may be difficult, in particular when someone is concerned for their student or friend’s welfare. Assurance of privacy is one of the conditions that makes therapy safe and effective. In order to share information, our clients must sign a Release of Information, which then would allow a therapist to share information with a designated person. In the event a student is in imminent danger, such as threat of seriously harming self or others, these may be times when we may break confidentiality to ensure safety of the student and others.

Resources for Parents

The content provided here is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended for self-diagnosis or self-treatment, nor should it replace the consultation of a trained medical or mental health professional. Please note that outside links are not under our control, and we cannot guarantee the content contained on them.