Parents and Family
The Counseling Center welcomes parents and family to
contact us if you have any questions or concerns about a student. Parents and family members may have a variety of concerns -- for example,
how the student is handling the loss of a loved one, going through a breakup,
showing signs of depression, having problems with attention or concentration, or
just not acting like his or her usual self. If
you are concerned about someone and the problem is an EMERGENCY, click here.
Also, you can read more about How to Help in an Emotional Crisis.
The Counseling Center provides free consultation to family
and friends of our students. “Consultation”
means seeking advice or information from one of our professional staff. We can help you understand the nature of a particular problem, how you
can be of assistance to the student, and what to do (or what not to do). We can also inform you about other resources on campus or in the
community that can be of help.
To speak with a counselor, just call 607-436-3368 and ask
for a counselor to consult with. If
there is not a counselor available, leave a number and times we can reach you,
and the soonest available counselor will get back to you. If you are not able to call during regular business hours (8:30-noon and
1-4:30 p.m. M-F) you can email a staff member by clicking on any of the links on
our STAFF page.
Clarification about Confidentiality:
Please understand that we realize it can be difficult to be
worried about a son, daughter, or family member and not have information about
services they are seeking. If we
have had professional contact with your student, information about that contact
is confidential unless they give us permission to share (please see below). However, we may still be able to have a discussion with you -- as we
would for any person who calls with questions about how they can help a student
handle a psychological issue. In
such cases, we base the consultation on the information you give us and we do
not reveal or imply any information a student has given us in confidence.
If a student is 18 or older and they are receiving
counseling services, all information (including whether they are a client) is
confidential. This is a legal and
ethical requirement, and it provides the student with their own confidential
space to air out difficulties. Exceptions
include when a student is at imminent risk of harm to self or others, or reports
abuse of a child. Exceptions also
include when a student signs a written release of information that allows some
or all information to be shared with specific identified parties. For or more on Confidentiality policy, click
If your student is
under age 18 and wishes to recieve counseling at the SUNY Oneonta Counseling Center, we will need consent from a parent or guardian. Follow this link to download the Consent Form for treatment for a Minor.
When you are calling for a consultation, we will be
discreet and professional in how we handle the information you give us. While consultations are not technically confidential (since you are not
actually a client), we do consider the best interests of those involved in
handling sensitive information.
There may be some situations where information from a consultation would be
shared with the Student Development team that meets in regard to distressed or
disturbed students. We would do our best to discuss this with you if information
you gave were to be shared.
Read the NY State Office of Mental Health brochure for parents of children in
college with reference to depression and suicide in their suicide
For more information about the SUNY Oneonta Counseling Center visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.
Also check out these great resources for parents!
The College of Oneonta First
Year Experience Website
Transition Year: A Parent's and Students' Source for Emotional Health at College
Manual for Parents of College Students
by Kate Shinko, M.S., Doctoral Intern
Research shows that open communication and close relationships help students adjust to college life, make healthy career and relationship choices, increase self-confidence, and boost their sense of autonomy. Parents play an important role in helping to identify students who may be in distress or crisis, especially if the student is not likely to turn to friends or faculty for help. These students may never have been in counseling before or are unaware of the services available for them.
HELP MY STUDENT IS CHANGING!
While college is a normal time to be growing, changing, developing a sense of independence and identity, sometimes a parent has that “gut feeling” that something is wrong. You may be reading this material because you feel something is more than just “different” in your student or perhaps you may be interested in the services we offer “just in case.” We take your concerns very seriously and want to help you and your student in the best way possible.
How you can help:
1) Know the signs that may indicate crisis and distress
2) Responding with care and concern
3) Campus resources
4) Talking to your student about counseling
What is the difference between Distress and Crisis?
A student experiencing distress is handled differently than one experiencing a crisis. So what is the difference? Here is the standards that the Counseling Center uses to evaluate what actions need to be taken to best help your student.
A crisis is a situation in which a person’s style of coping is not longer effective. Their emotional or physiological responses escalate. The individual may be disoriented, non-functional, or may attempt harm (themselves or others). You might see the following in a mental health crisis:
- Suicidal statements or attempts
- Threats, either verbal or written
- Attempts at homicide or assault
- Destruction of property
- Extreme anxiety that result in panic reactions
- Lack of ability to communicate (e.g., disjointed thoughts, slurred speech)
- Loss of sense of reality (e.g., seeing or hearing things that aren’t there)
- Disruptive behavior such as aggression or hostility
What to Do When You Suspect a Crisis
If the Counseling Center is not available, you can call the 24-hour Crisis Line at Bassett Hospital. The phone number is: 1-844-732-6228. For an ambulance or emergency medical intervention, call University Police at: (607) 436-3550 or on campus x3550.
Distress is defined as indicators that, when present over time, suggest that a student's stress level may be a cause for concern. A person may be in distress if you see the following characteristics:
- Changes in academic performance
- Changes in attendance at class or meetings
- Depressed, lethargic, or irritable moods
- Hyperactivity and/or rapid speech
- Withdrawal from social activities (friends, family, etc)
- Uncharacteristic changes in personal dress, hygiene, eating and/or sleeping routines
- Repeatedly falling asleep in class
- Requests for special consideration, especially if the student is uncomfortable talking about the circumstances prompting the request
- New or recurrent behavior that pushes the limits of decorum and that interferes with the effective management of your class, work team, etc.
- Unusual or exaggerated emotional response to events
Responding with Care and Concern
1) Breathe. This may be the hardest step. While you obviously love your student, it may be counter-productive to panic – which results in more stress for both you and your student. Students are likely to turn to you if they perceive you as available and willing to listen, and that you will not trivialize their pain or panic about their problem. Know you and your student have many resources available to you.
2) Talk with your child about your concern.
Make sure there is privacy and that you can allow adequate time to voice your concerns.
Some helpful hints on talking with your student:
- Be direct, specific, and non-judgmental -especially when expressing your concern. This includes avoiding evaluating and criticisizing even if he/she asks for your opinion. “I noticed that you have been calling home more frequently and have been crying a lot. Has there been anything happening that you have been worried about?”
- Give your child your undivided attention (i.e., turn off cell-phones)
- Communicate understanding by repeating back/paraphrasing what he/she has told you. (e.g., I hear you’re frustrated and feeling overwhelmed with all the work you have to do.)
- Ask questions. This shows that not only are you listening, you are not assuming you know everything about their experience. For example, rather than asking “Are you angry?” you might ask “You hung up the phone quickly before, you seemed annoyed, were you offended at something I said earlier?”
- Let your child talk- this allows your child to express him or herself, and allows you to gather information about what they are going through. The more pieces to the puzzle you know, the more you can help!
- Praise them for being open and honest with you.
- Avoid offering advice outside your area of expertise. You know your child well, but he or she may not be ready to hear it is time to breakup with a partner.
- Ask about their level of risk (regarding suicidal thoughts). It can be a scary topic, but it is very serious and needs attention. Asking if they have thought about suicide does not increase the risk. In fact, many students are relieved they can talk about it. Use the word suicide. The following questions will help you if your student is in immediate danger. If there is danger, consider this an emergency and follow crisis procedures. If there is not immediate danger, validate the pain as legitimate and work with your student to get help.
- "Do you ever feel so badly that you have thought of suicide?"
- "Do you have a plan?"
- "Do you know when you would do it (today, next week)?"
- "Do you have access to what you would use?"
- Never agree to keep suicidal thoughts in confidence.
- Suicide can be a scary topic, especially for a parent, but it can be a very serious one that needs attention.
- If you feel your child isn't in immediate danger, acknowledge the pain as legitimate and offer to work together to get help.
- Directly ask how you can be of help. This helps you find out if they need a supportive ear or if they need help finding resources. It also clarifies how YOU can be of help!
- Encourage responsibility by helping your son or daughter to identify the problem and generate possible solutions.
- Follow through!
There are many forms of support on campus for students. Brainstorming with your student to think about people on campus to help her can help give her some options and a sense of hope. For academic concerns, he or she might turn to an advisor, instructors, or other students in the class. For social concerns, he or she might talk to an RA, a roommate, a friend, or the Counseling Center. Each situation is unique, and there may be a number of resources that can help. It’s often helpful to peruse the college’s website (Oneonta.edu) to get a sense of the departments and the resources available. Furthermore, the Counseling Center has a number of self-help resources on its website!
Talking to Your Student About Counseling
If through your discussions with your student you feel an objective, outside individual may be most helpful, or if the situation seems best left to a mental health professional, there are several ways to encourage your student to seek out help at the Counseling Center.
- Share the reasons with your son or daughter why you are recommending counseling. For instance you might mention “You seem to be in more than in just a ‘funk.’ I notice you have been more tearful in our conversations and you have mentioned you feel lonely over the past month.”
- Explain to your student that many students are seen at the Counseling Center each year for a wide variety or problems (depression, anxiety, relationship, stress about the future, suicidal thoughts, to name a few). This helps normalize the counseling experience as they may believe only “crazy” people go to counseling.
- Suggest that your son or daughter attend one session before deciding whether counseling would or would not be helpful.
- Allow your son or daughter to refuse counseling, except in the case of danger to self or others, in which you follow crisis proceedings. Even if they refuse to go initially, your suggestion may still be considered in the future or may be considered privately.
- You can always call the Counseling Center (607-436-3368) yourself to get information about services, to discuss how to make an appointment, for consultation about how to discuss the referral with your son or daughter, or for outside referral sources. When in doubt, call!
- You can get to know the counselors and review information about the Counseling Center by visiting http://www.oneonta.edu/development/counseling/. Encourage your student to do the same. You can learn about what a first session looks like, consultation services (and how to get the most out of them!), and other information on specific disorders.
- Ensure that counseling is confidential. One important aspect for both students AND parents to know is that our services are confidential. This may help encourage your child to speak with someone about topics that they might be too embarrassed to speak with their parent about. Unless your student gives us written permission, we can neither confirm nor deny that your student came to us! Know that this confidentiality is an important part of counseling so your student feels most free to openly discuss topics.
- If your student is willing or prefers we have contact with you, he or she can sign a Release of Information that explicitly states we may speak with you.
- We understand your child’s safety is of the utmost importance to you. There are several exceptions to safety that occur on rare occasions. These include if a student is clearly and imminently suicidal, if he or she is under 18 years old, if we learn of ongoing child abuse, or if we are court-ordered,
- If your student does not give his or her counselor permission to speak with you, you may still wish to share your concerns with the Counseling Center. For instance, if you are concerned about your student’s safety, you may wish to call the Center. However, the counselor will not acknowledge your student has or has not been into counseling, and that the counselor will likely want to discuss any information provided with the student of concern.
Self-Care for Parents
As a parent, you know that often it is more difficult to see your child having a difficult time than it is to be going through the experience yourself. While you care for your son or daughter, it is also important to be taking care of yourself! Here are a few ways that can help you cope with stress while you help your son or daughter.
Take care of your physical self- Getting enough sleep, eating regular and healthy meals, and getting exercise are all important when it comes to relieving stress. It’s not going to be of any benefit to your son, daughter, or yourself if you’re sleep deprived and finding it difficult to think clearly. A 10 minute walk around the block, a healthy snack, or a 15 minute power nap are all great ways to help your body deal with the physical toll of stress.
Take care of your emotional self- It is normal for families to experience many emotions when a student goes to college- sadness, joy, guilt, pride, fear, and excitement are just some of them. These feelings can be confusing or conflicting at times, but none are ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ Especially for emotions that make us uncomfortable, while it may seem most beneficial at first to avoid them or pretend they aren’t there, often little is gained from not dealing with them. It is healthy to talk about these feelings with other family, friends, religious or spiritual support, or seek out your own counselor. Also, journaling, creating art, or listening to music can be helpful in the expression of emotions.
Trust in your abilities- If your son or daughter is going through a difficult time, such as trying to adjust to school, going through a breakup, or some other major life difficulty, it is important to trust in your abilities as a parent. Common questions asked are: “Is it ok to visit my homesick student?” “Should I confront him/her about poor grades?” “What should I do about XYZ?” There is no perfect answer to these questions but you know what your family needs best! We can offer you consultation services and suggestions, but it is important that you trust in yourself as a parent. After all, your child has come this far!
Feel you don’t have time for self care? Modeling is a great way to teach your child that in times of stress it is even more important to engage in healthy behaviors. We know as parents that children learn from what we do just as much (or more!) than from what we say. Just like babies learn to put phones to their ears, clap their hands, or make funny faces, these young adults learn how to take care of themselves often by watching what their parents do. While you can teach them the importance of self-care by talking, modeling this for them on a consistent basis can have a powerful impact on both your lives. Monkey see, monkey do!
“It’s ok to take time for yourself, to take care of yourself. In fact, it’s the best thing you can do for yourself … and everyone you love.” ~ Cheri Huber
Resources for parents:
http://www.collegeparents.org/ - Great website with many articles including talking with your student about difficult topics like drugs, alcohol, or sex.
- Almost Grown: Launching Your Child from High School to College
by Patricia Pasick
- College of the Overwhelmed: The Campus Mental Health Crisis and What to Do about it
by Richard Kadison
- Don’t Tell me What to Do, Just Send Money
by Helen E. Johnson
- Empty Nest ... Full Heart: The Journey from Home to College
by Andrea Van Steenhouse
- The Launching Years: Strategies for Parenting from Senior to College Life
by Laura Kastner , Jennifer Fugett Wyatt
- Letting Go: A Parents' Guide to Understanding the College Years
by Karen Levin Coburn (Author), Madge Lawrence Treeger
- When Kids Go to College: A Parent's Guide to Changing Relationships
by Barbara M. Newman, Philip R.Newman
- When Your Kid Goes to College: A Parent's Survival Guide
by Carol Barkin
- You're On Your Own (But I'm Here if You Need Me): Mentoring Your Child During the College Years
by Marjorie Savage
- Transition to College: Separation and Change for Parents and Students
by Robin F. Goodman, Ph.D., New York University Child Study Center
- Transition to College Stresses Parents and Kids
by Emily Hagedorn / The Detroit News
- Mothers and Their Adult Daughters: Mixed Emotions, Enduring Bonds
by Karen Fingerman, Ph.D.
- Empty Nest...Full Heart: The Journey from Home to College
by Andrea Steenhouse
- How to Survive and Thrive in an Empty Nest: Reclaiming your Life when Your Children have Grown
by Jeanette Lauer et al
- Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year
by Anne Lamott
- She's Leaving Home: Letting Go as a Daughter Goes to College
by Connie Jones
- The Empty Nest: When Children Leave Home
by Shelley Bovey
- When You're Facing the Empty Nest: Avoiding Midlife Meltdown When Your Child Leaves Home
by Mary Ann Froehlich