Adjusting to College
As you and your student are adjusting to an ever-changing college experience, it is important to maintain regular contact with them, while at the same time allowing space for them to approach you and set the agenda for some of your conversations. Let them know that you respect and support their right to make independent decisions and that you will serve as an advocate and an advisor when asked. Additionally, recognize that it is normal for your student to seek your help one day and reject it the next. Such behavior can be confusing and exhausting for caregivers, so make sure to take care of yourself by talking about your feelings with your own support system.
What to expect for your student
College will likely be a time of intellectual stimulation and growth, emotional ups and downs, career exploration and development, increased autonomy, self-exploration and discovery, and social involvement. For many students, this is a time of forging new identities as well as time to test and clarify many of their personal values and beliefs. This process takes time and generally requires an examination of self, friends, and family. It may also be a time for exploration and experimentation, and a period in which your student may question or challenge the values you hold dear. The changes that students may experience can also occur quickly as they begin to develop new peer relationships, gain competence in new areas, and learn to manage independence.
What to expect for yourself
As caregivers, you may experience a range of emotions similar to what you are observing in your student - - from feelings of happiness, excitement, and pride to times of sadness, anxiety and pain. Caregivers may worry about students’ safety and ability to effectively care for themselves. You may fear "losing" your student as they begin to function more independently and forms deep attachments with peers. It may be helpful to support your student in this process by providing an open line of communication.
What to do if you are concerned about your student
If you notice that your student is exhibiting behavioral changes that include but are not limited to increased interpersonal difficulties, consistently high levels of anxiety, odd behavior, a loss of interest in personal appearance or hygiene, low motivation, withdrawal from people or activities previously enjoyed, a lack of hope, changes in sleep or weight, or makes references to suicide or self-harm, it can be helpful to convey personally, this concern in a caring and nonjudgmental manner. Communicating directly about specific behaviors or statements can help you to avoid making generalizations and express your support and love in a way that can be accepted. When sharing your concerns, it is important to ask questions and be a supportive listener – listening compassionately and non-judgmentally can help your student feel heard, and help you more fully understand the context of exhibited behaviors. While we know it may be difficult, it can be helpful to your student and their developmental process to avoid jumping into problem solving, and instead communicate that you are there for help if requested or desired. This may also be a good time to let them know that if unable or not comfortable talking to you, there are other people and resources on campus who are there for support (i.e., Dean of Students, Residence Life, Academic Support).
If you need help in working through any of these steps or would like to consult with one of our staff members, you are always welcome to do so. Such consultations can focus on a range of issues. Common topics include: what to do when out of ideas but still wanting to help, how to assist a student experiencing a difficult situation, or how to facilitate a referral to a mental health care provider in the local community.
What to expect if your student makes an appointment at UCPS
When students schedule an appointment with our center, they will complete basic paperwork about themselves and review paperwork about UCPS’ policies and procedures. They will then have a chance to meet with their assigned therapist, where they have the opportunity to discuss what has brought them into the center. They can expect their therapist to work collaboratively with them to decide what the most appropriate course of action will be based on their unique circumstances, issues, and needs. The options often include setting up short-term individual counseling, suggestions for joining one of our center’s group gatherings, a referral to another LU campus resource (i.e. the Health Center, Career Services, Academic Support Services) or a referral to a professional in the community. For more information about our services, check out our services page (https://studentaffairs.lehigh.edu/content/ucps-services) to watch our video or to read more about us and the services that we provide. Contact UCPS via phone (610-758-3880) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.
The relationship between counselor and client is one that is based on trust and to that end, is kept confidential. This means that we are unable to release information about your student. Professionally, we are obligated to protect every client’s right to privacy and are only able to release information to the level our client has requested. If students request to sign a Release of Information form specifying what and with whom they would like us to share information regarding their treatment, then we may be able to discuss their therapy with you.