When Parents or Significant Others Are Concerned About Their Student's Behavior
Fifty percent of student contact at the Counseling Services is a result of a referral from faculty, staff or fellow students. We rely upon a campus that is sensitive and responsive to the everyday contact through classrooms, living environments and even conversations to guide students to use the resource of counseling in a timely way.
However, parents, family members, or significant others can become aware of changes in their student's patterns or behaviors even from a distance. They may see their student having difficulty in their life at college and want to find a way to help. These concerned individuals themselves may have a hard time adjusting to their family member/friend going off to college. Here are some ideas written for parents about their own adjustment which may be helpful to any family member or significant other.
The following information is offered as help to family/significant others to determine when and how to find such help for their student.
When a Student May Need Counseling
TRAUMA OR CRISIS:
- Break-up or change in relationship status
- Loss/illness of family member or close friend
- Conflict with roommate, friend, family
- Change in job
- Victim of assault or abuse
- Lack of confidence
- Test or speech anxiety
- Extreme changes in academic performance
- Poor study habits
- Confusion over low performance
DRAMATIC SHIFTS IN BEHAVIOR:
- Changes in appearance
- Changes in eating, sleeping
- Sudden withdrawal from people
- Irritable, angry, emotional outbursts
- Excessive anxiety, worry, stress reactions
CHOICE OF MAJOR OR CAREER:
- Not doing well in major
- Need for assessment of interests and abilities
ALCOHOL AND OTHER DRUG ABUSE:
- Lethargic, lack interest
- Evidence of excessive use
- Non-social behavior such as lying, stealing
- Nonfunctional behavior such as passing out, missing classes, not going to job.
SUICIDAL OR DESPAIRING REFERENCE:
Statements that could have suicide reference or any concern about any self-harming behavior - see these guidelines for action.
HOW TO MAKE A REFERRAL
You may wish to consult with a CS staff concerning the possibility of referral or you may directly suggest going to CS as a resource to the student,
- BE DIRECT AND STRAIGHT FORWARD in your recommendation. Tell the student specific reasons (such as their behavior or statements) that give you concern about them, and tell them how they can make contact with a counselor.
- BE CLEAR. If it is your recommendation and judgment that counseling assistance would be helpful, it is still important to allow the student a sense of control in making the decision to talk about a problem without undue pressure. In most cases, letting the student initiate and follow through in making a counseling appointment is preferred.
- DEALING WITH RESISTANCE. In some cases the evidence of a problem situation is overwhelming, yet the person is adamant in their denial or does not follow through with counseling while the problem persists. In these situations we suggest you consult with a staff member of CS about ways to deal with such denial, including the possibility of making an intervention or other strategy that more directly confronts the problem.
- EMERGENCY. In a few situations a student might be in urgent crisis and you may have serious concern about the student's personal safety (danger to self or others) and ability to function (rationality, impaired judgment). Consider these crisis steps if concerned about suicidal behavior.
- FOLLOW UP WITH THE STUDENT after you make a referral is a good idea. This shows your concern and interest and it can avoid making counseling seem taboo by avoiding the topic later. However, since referral often involves personal information, honoring the student's privacy also is important by determining the appropriate time and place to hold discussion.
- CONFIDENTIALITY. Please understand that the STUDENT IS IN CONTROL OF INFORMATION concerning whether they are being seen and what they discuss. A CS counselor or any mental health professional is bound by legal and ethical concerns not to reveal this type of information to anyone without the individual's written consent. We suggest you ask the student directly if he/she followed up with your referral and made contact with CS or a counselor.
Updated 08/10/2006 by D. Lambert, Counseling Services, Kansas State University.