Dear Parent,

Having your child begin his or her university career can be a stressful experience for parents, especially if your son or daughter hasn't lived away from home before. During this important time of transition for the family, many parents put their own feelings and reactions on hold while helping their child prepare for university life. Attending to your own emotional needs, however, as well as your child's will go a long way toward helping everyone feel comfortable with the challenges that going to college represents.

Transition for Parents

  1. Recognize that feelings of ambivalence about your child's leaving home are normal.
    For most families, this step can seem like a dramatic separation of parent and child, although it is usually the separation of adult from almost-adult. It is normal, too, to look forward to the relative peace and quiet of having your active older adolescent out of the house and having the place to yourself, or being able to spend time with your younger children!
  2. Allow yourself to feel whatever emotions come up.
    There is little benefit in pretending that you don't feel sad, guilty, relieved, apprehensive, or whatever feelings you do have, while your child is getting ready to come to the University. You probably aren't fooling anyone by trying to hide your reactions; a healthier approach is to talk about them-with your family, friends, clergy, or whoever is a source of support for you.
  3. Make "overall wellness" a goal for yourself.
    Especially during stressful times, it helps to get enough sleep, eat healthful meals regularly, and get adequate exercise. Spending some recharging time-doing the special things that you especially like-is another step toward wellness. If you are feeling good, you are more likely to have the energy to help your child and be a good role model.
  4. Remember that, for your child, coming to the University is a tremendously important developmental step toward full adulthood.
    It represents the culmination of the teachings and learning’s of 18 years or so-much of it geared toward helping your child assume a productive place in the world. This is the time when your hard work will show itself in the form of a framework that your freshman will use in beginning to make independent choices. Many parents find that it helps to focus on the fact that providing your child with this opportunity is a priceless gift. Be proud of yourself!
  5. Find a new creative outlet for yourself.
    Especially parents whose last or only child has moved away to college find that taking on a new challenge is an excellent way to manage and channel their energy and feelings. Have you ever wanted to write a book? Learn to fly-fish? Make a quilt? Volunteer in your community? Assume a new project or responsibility at work? Travel? Get your own bicycle and ride all over town? Make a list of all the things you intended to do while your child was growing up, but never had the time to do. Now is your chance!

The Transition: Students

Despite the clichés about college being the best years of one's life, many first-year college students are surprised to find themselves feeling stressed and even overwhelmed as they attempt to adjust to life at college.  With so many changes (even welcomed changes) -- new freedoms, routines, and responsibilities, as well as distinct academic and social adjustments -- it's no wonder that so many first-year students make at least one tearful call home early in their college careers.  In fact, in recent years colleges and universities nationwide have noted that increasingly, students are arriving at college with mental health issues that are more difficult than those reported by college freshmen from past generations.  While the precise reasons for this phenomenon are unclear, many speculate that advances in psychotherapeutic and pharmacological treatments have enabled many adolescents with mental health issues not only to function, but also to thrive academically and socially, in spite of these issues.  Presumably, many adolescents have succeeded in high school and aspire to succeed in college thanks at least in part to effective mental health treatment. 

Although it's not unusual for first year college students to want to use the transition to college as a unique opportunity for a “fresh start”/“clean slate”/“chance to make it on my own,” it is wise for students as well as their families to prepare for some of the potential challenges and adjustments in store for them.  A certain amount of stress is simply inevitable as a part of life.  However, a little advanced preparation, combined with utilization of available resources, can help students and their families cope much more effectively with the transitions in store for them.  This is especially important for college-bound students who have struggled with some of the issues we frequently encounter in our work at the Counseling Center.

Normalizing the Adjustment

  1. Mixed feelings for parents and students is normal as college looms in the near future.
  2. Eagerness one day and anxiety (even dread) another day is quite normal.
  3. Even at college, students still may need support and guidance
    1. Arrange regular calls, texts, e-mails, or Skype conversations
    2. Expect the frequency of contact to change over time

Fostering Self-Reliance

  1. Self-motivation, personal responsibility for classes and self-care are expected.
  2. Students recommended to study 2-3 hours/week for every hour spent in class.
  3. Time management and establishing regular routines are essential to limit stress and the need to “cram” right before exams.
  4. If struggling in class, students should utilize available resources sooner vs. later
    1. Study groups, tutoring meeting with instructor or teaching assistant.
    2. The Office of Learning Resources has many resources designed to help students reach their academic goals.

Getting Involved

New students may benefit from taking advantage of campus life opportunities

  1.  Informal opportunities to study
  2.  Going to meals with peers
  3.  Socializing with new friends and acquaintances
  4.  Residence hall activities
  5.  Organized campus events and group outings such as a Campus Ministry retreat.
    1. Even shy students will meet new people and feel connected, although this may be uncomfortable at first
    2. There are many student groups on campus for students to get involved in.  The Center for Student Involvement is a great resource for finding information on where to get involved.

Support for Students on Campus

To help new students deal with stress and difficulties with adjustment, at UD there are informal as well as formal support networks. 

Common Student Stressors

As you know, certain times of the year are more difficult than others. During these times, additional support for your child is helpful and encouraging. Please remember that this is only a guide designed to help you understand the types of pressures encountered by college students. These stress periods affect each student in different ways.

August

Initial adjustment to the academic environment, homesickness, and stress of long-distance relationships, financial adjustments and roommate conflicts.

September & October

Freshmen begin to realize that life at college is not as perfect as they were led to believe by parents, teachers, and counselors. Old problems seem to continue, and new ones are added. Midterm workload pressures are followed by feelings of failure or a sense of accomplishment. Problems with study skills, concern over fitting in and possible illnesses due to changes in weather can also occur.

November & December

Academic pressure is beginning to mount because of procrastination, difficulty of work and lack of needed study skills. Economic anxiety can be caused due to decreasing funds from parents and diminishing summer savings. Financial strain can be caused by Christmas gifts and travel costs. Anxiety increases as final examinations approach and papers are due.

January & February

A second wave of homesickness can occur. Depression can increase as students get tired of winter and being inside. Students begin to have relationship anxieties as they weaken ties with others or change friendships. Students begin thinking about changing majors or transferring schools

March & April

Stress over midterm exams and plans for spring break starts. Students often experience limited finances. Papers and exams pile up and students start worrying about summer jobs.

May

Worry over choosing a major, disenchantment with college life, academic pressure leading to increased changes in dietary habits such as excessive coffee consumption, sleep loss and anxiety about saying goodbye to friends and seeking summer employment. Sometimes students are upset because they have not done as well academically as they would like.

The above guide is not to alarm parents, but should serve as a guide in determining the issues your child may be experiencing throughout the year.



What Can I Do to Help My Child From a Distance?

Of course, you are still a parent to your almost-adult, and he or she does still need your support and guidance during the college years. Here are some ways you can express your caring and enhance your child's experience at the University of Dayton.

  1. Stay in touch!
    Even though your child is experimenting with independent choices, he or she still needs to know that you're there and are available to talk over both normal events and difficult issues. Keep the texts and phone calls coming, even if your student is a little lax in returning them. It keeps them from feeling forgotten.
  2. Allow space for your child to set the agenda for some of your conversations.
    If he or she needs help or support, the subject is more likely to come up if you aren't inquiring pointedly about what time he or she came in last night!
  3. Be realistic with your college student about financial matters.
    Most students come to school with a fairly detailed plan about how tuition, fees, books, and room and board will be paid for, and what the family's expectations are about spending money. Being specific at the outset may help avoid misunderstandings later.
  4. Be realistic as well about academic achievement and grades.
    Not every freshman who excelled academically in high school will be an all-A student at UD. Developing or refining the capacity to work independently and consistently and to demonstrate mastery can be more important than grades, as long as the student meets the basic academic requirements set out by the University. Again, these are choices that each individual student makes, though certainly it is appropriate to help your child set his or her own long-term goals.
  5. If your child does experience difficulties at UD, encourage him or her to take advantage of the wealth of resources available for students.
    For academic issues, talking with the professor, teaching assistant or academic advisor is probably the first step. If your son or daughter could benefit from personal or career counseling, the Counseling Center is located on campus and professional staff is available for them.  You can help your child by reminding him or her of the many resources available on campus.
  6. Send Care Packages-Include cookies and candy, small personal items, seasonal items, and a little extra money. A bit of home in the mail makes the student feel closer to home.
  7. Encourage your student to get involved. It is a great way to meet new people and be aware that a large amount of learning takes place outside the classroom.
  8. Allow plenty of room to grow and experiment as your student tests his/her independence.
  9. Be patient; college life requires adjustments for your student.
  10. Stay calm. Relax. Enjoy them for who they are.  Pray that they have learned what you have spent 18 years teaching them.


Common Questions about the Counseling Center

How can my child get an appointment?

We require that your son or daughter call the Counseling Center to schedule his or her own appointment. They know their schedule best, and they are more likely to keep their appointment if they have scheduled it.


I'm worried about my student and want him/her to go to the Counseling Center. How can I help them?

Explain your concerns directly and gently. It helps if you can cite specific examples about why you are concerned. Indicate that you would like them to go to the Counseling Center for an appointment and be ready with the address and phone number (Gosiger Hall, 1st Floor, 937-229-3141). You can ask them to try it out, and that there is very little risk in attending appointments.

What if my son/daughter will not go to the Counseling Center after I ask them to do so?

It is, of course, the student's right not to go to the Counseling Center, in which case, you can respect their wishes but continue to express concern. If your son/daughter lives in a residence hall, you can speak to the Resident Assistant (RA). RAs are not bound by the same strict confidentiality rules that mental and physical health providers must follow. Even if talking to an RA is not possible or does not produce the desired result, please continue to check-in with your student's emotional well-being on a regular basis. There is not much point in getting into a heated discussion about getting the student to go to the Counseling Center, as there is little one can do to make students go to appointments, unless he/she is a danger to themselves or to someone else.

I'm worried about my student, and I want to know what is being discussed during the counseling sessions. Can I get this information?

Once a student is 18 years or older, the student has complete control of his/her medical records. Consequently, he/she need to give written permission to allow other people access to the information. If the student will not sign a release, it is illegal for the provider to discuss the case in any way. If you would like access to your student's information, the best approach is for you to discuss your reasoning with your student.

What if I just want confirmation that my student is attending appointments, but I don't want to know what is being discussed?

Legally, a release of information needs to be signed to allow us to confirm appointment attendance, even if we do not discuss appointment details.

What if I want to tell a therapist something about my student, but I don't necessarily want to learn anything about what the student has said to the therapist?

You are free to leave information with the on-call therapist whenever you would like to do so. However, the therapist cannot share any information with you, including whether appointments have been scheduled or attended, without a release of information.

What does confidentiality mean for parents?

  • Confidentiality is essential to the counseling relationship
  • Without your child's written consent we cannot confirm or deny that a student has come to the Counseling Center for a counseling session or disclose the name of their therapist.
  • If you want to talk to your son or daughter's therapist, you should talk to your child and ask them to sign a release of information form at the Counseling Center.
  • You may also contact the Counselor-on-Call to share your concerns or to obtain general information

Contact Information

Counseling Center

Gosiger Hall 1st Floor 
300 College Park Dr 
Dayton, Ohio 45469 - 0910

Phone 937-229-3141