Family & Friend Resources
The mission of The Counseling Services is to promote student’s personal growth and development and to assist students in coping with personal difficulties so they can benefit and succeed from their university experience. Everyone experiences challenges from time to time that can be difficult to sort out or cope with alone. Counseling Services provides a safe, private and confidential place for students to talk about their concerns.
Parents and Family Members Play an Important Role in Adjustment to College
We believe that you, the parents, play an extremely important role in helping your student adjust to college and succeed. You can best support your son or daughter in their new ventures by offering encouragement, guidance, and listening carefully to their concerns. As a parent, you can help your student by encouraging them to trust in their own abilities and suggesting that they reach out to others when additional support is needed
College is a time for exploration and results cannot always be predicted, often leading to anxiety for both the student and the parent. Deciding to attend Lake Superior State University is itself an exploration and even the happiest student may at times feel homesick or doubt him or herself. This questioning and changing may, at times, seem to apply to every choice a student makes, from academic major to friends to how much contact they should have with their family. To the concerned parent or family member, this can sound like a cry for help, a personal rejection or perhaps the start of a problematic time period or crisis for the student.
Understanding what is truly happening will involve patience and careful listening on your part. Most often, the true purpose of a phone call is to vent frustration and fears, so the student feels heard and understood. Once this is accomplished, students usually feel relieved and ready to move forward. However, for parents, a distressed phone call is often only the beginning of a long night of worry, only to find out at the next day’s check-in that, from the student’s point of view, everything if fine.
Adjustment problems are a common and expected experience for most students, particularly for freshmen. Parents are usually the first to notice changes in their student’s behavior, attitudes, or emotional stability that might indicate a problem. Talk with your student about your concerns. Let your student know that adjustment problems are common among college students and that Counseling Services can help.
Students do not need to reach a point of crisis to seek and benefit from counseling. Prolonged behavioral changes, such as loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, withdrawal from social activities, or avoidance of classes or other responsibilities might be signals that your student is experiencing more than an adjustment difficulty. Being prepared may help you distinguish between a problem and a crisis.
Recognizing Signs of Distress
Look for and beware of any of the following signs of distress:
- Inability to concentrate, confusion, indecisiveness
- Persistent worrying
- Social isolation, depression
- No interest in activities
- Increased irritability, restlessness
- Uncontrollable anger
- Dramatic mood swings
- Bizarre or dangerous behavior
- Missed class/ assignments, procrastination
- Messy appearance
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Excessive alcohol or drug use
- Talk of death or suicide
Responding to Signs of Distress
Educate Yourself: Become Informed
It you notice signs of distress in a friend or family member and want to get involved, it helps if you become informed about the nature of the problem(s) your friend is confronting and the resources available to help them. We encourage you to contact Counseling Services for consultation.
Involve yourself only as far as you are willing to go.
At times, in an attempt to reach or help a troubled friend, you may become more involved than time or skill permits. If you decide to take action, remember that your success and wellness is a priority and seek professional consultation and support if you begin to feel overwhelmed or frustrated.
Confronting a Friend or Family Member
Confronting someone means that you have the courage to let your friend know what you have seen and heard, that you are concerned about them, and that you are willing to help. Confronting should not include judging or attacking the person, nor should it be an effort to force the person to take action. Listed below are some practical tips on confronting a friend.
- Talk to him or her in private. This could help reduce embarrassment and defensiveness.
- Be honest and specific. Explain why you want to have a serious talk and what you hope will happen (and what you hope doesn’t happen). Example: ” I am really worried about your drinking and I hope you won’t just blow me off or think I am putting you down…I don’t want to wreck our friendship…”
- Openly acknowledge that you are aware of their distress. If they do not think they are distressed but you see signs of distress, tell them what you have observed. It is important that you describe your observations in a non-judgmental way and express concern in your observations. Example: “Since last Friday night you have come back to our room really drunk four times, twice you said you drove home drunk and last night you threw up all over our floor…”
- Strange or inappropriate behavior should not be ignored. Comment directly on what you have observed.
- Speak directly and honestly and acknowledge you are sincerely concerned about their welfare. Express your feelings. Example: “I am really worried about you…I am scared to talk to you in a serious way because I think you don’t believe you have a problem…and bringing it up might just piss you off…”
- Let them know you are willing to help them explore their alternatives. Offer your recommendations. Example: “I really wish you would go talk to someone about your drinking…see if you do have a problem. You could either talk with the someone at Counseling Services… I can walk over with you… The services are free and they are on campus.”
- Listen carefully to what your friend is troubled about and try to see the issue from his/her point of view without necessarily agreeing or disagreeing. One way to communicate that you are listening and understand is to paraphrase what your friend says from their point of view and to then to restate your observations and recommendations.
- Attempt to succinctly identify the problem or concern and explore alternatives to deal with the problem.
- Refer to Counseling Services or outside professional help when appropriate. Inform them that seeing the counselor does not mean they have some mental disorder . The counselor can help them identify what’s causing the problem and figure out ways to cope and get back on track.
Consultation with a Counselor:
If you are unsure of how to handle a situation with a friend or family member or begin to feel overwhelmed, we encourage you to consult with Counseling Services at 906-635-2752.