Adjusting to College
As you and your child are adjusting to the new college experience it is important to maintain regular contact with your child, while at the same time allowing space for your child to approach you and set the agenda for some of your conversations. Let your child know that you respect and support his or her 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 child to seek your help one day and reject it the next. Such behavior can be confusing and exhausting for parents, so make sure to take care of yourself by talking about your feelings with your own support system.
A word about confidentiality and the parameters in which we work based on our professional role. The relationship between counselor and client is one that is based on trust and to that end is kept confidential, meaning that we are unable to release information about your child. Professionally we are obligated to protect our client’s rights 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.
What should I expect during the transition to college?
What to expect from my child
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 child 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 myself
As parents, you may experience a range of emotions similar to what you are observing in your child - - from feelings of happiness, excitement, and pride to times of sadness, anxiety and pain. Parents may worry about students’ safety and ability to effectively care for themselves. You may fear "losing" your child as he or she begins to function more independently and forms deep attachments with peers. Support your child in this process with the key being your ability to provide an open line of communication with your child.
What can I do if I am concerned about my child?
- Communicate directly (avoid making generalizations)
- Express your support and love
- Be a supportive listener; listen to their concerns fully
- Try not to jump straight into problem-solving mode
- Refer to our website for information
- Contact us to consult
- Encourage student to use resources on campus (residence life, academic support)
What are potential signs to look for in my child?
- Has interpersonal difficulties/relationship problems
- Seems highly anxious, constantly tearful, or "stressed out"
- Has experienced some recent or past trauma that is interfering with his/her ability to function
- Exhibits odd, peculiar, or bizarre behavior
- Loses interest in her or his personal appearance
- Appears depressed, withdrawn, and/or has little motivation for academic/social/occupational pursuits
- References to suicide or self-harm
- Statements that reflect low self-worth or lack of hope
- Significant changes in weight
If my child schedules an appointment at the UCPS, what can he or she expect at their first appointment?
When students arrive at our center they will fill out some basic paperwork about themselves and review some 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 therapy groups, 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.
What kind of counseling services does the UCPS provide?
The UCPS provides individual, group, consultative, and referral services for Lehigh graduate and undergraduate students. Individual counseling at the UCPS is usually short-term and time-limited and students who require ongoing long-term individual therapy typically make arrangements to see therapists in the local private sector. However, because the psychotherapy groups offered at the UCPS are generally ongoing and not time limited, you may want to discuss this option with your child if long-term counseling is needed. Limited psychiatric services are available for students actively participating in regular therapy at the UCPS. Contact the Lehigh University Health Center 610-758-3870 or UCPS for more information.
Letting Go: A Parent's Guide to Understanding the College Years by Karen Levin Coburn and Madge Lawrence Treeger. © 2003 – 4th Edition
Don't Tell Me What to Do, Just Send Money by Helen Johnson and Christine Schelhas-Miller © 2000 Griffin
Once my Child, Now my Friend by Elinor Lenz © 1985 (reissue) Warner Books
You’re On Your Own (But I’m Here if You Need Me): Mentoring Your Child During the College Years By Marjorie Savage © 2003 Fireside
When Your Kid Goes to College: A Parents Survival Guide By Carol Barkin © 1999 Avon