Tips for Family and Friends
Coping with Your Student Leaving HomeAccept the appropriateness of your emotions and allow yourself to experience them. Conflicting feelings are the norm at this time. They may indeed include a confusing mix of sadness, relief, emptiness, guilt, gladness, hope and apprehension. Many parents find comfort in talking about them with a trusted confidante.
Look after your own well-being. This might be a good time to start that exercise program you have been planning. Spend more time doing things you like. This can be a perfect time to find a new activities.
Let your son or daughter take the lead sometimes in structuring your conversations. It can be beneficial to avoid giving in to the impulse to ask frequently about grades, how late they are staying out, how much they are studying, and who their friends are.
Be specific about finances. Work out a plan for paying for tuition, fees, books, room, board, travel, recreation and other expenses. Being clear about expectations in the beginning can help avoid future misunderstandings. Educate your son or daughter about credit card use. Inexperienced users of credit cards can get into deep trouble quickly.
Be realistic regarding your expectations about academic achievement and grades. Adjusting to college life can involve difficult transitions, complicated by excessive grade pressure. Not every “A” student in high school can be an “A” student in college. Be supportive—focus on your son or daughter’s development rather than performance, as long as they are meeting basic academic requirements.
If your student does experience difficulties encourage him or her to use one or more of the many sources of help UC Santa Cruz has to offer. CAPS is here to help your student cope with emotional or psychological concerns. Talking with a counselor can help. The counselor can also assist your student in finding other university resources.
- Deterioration in quality of work
- Missed assignments or appointments
- Repeated absence from class or lab
- Continual seeking of unusual accommodations
- Lack of engagement in participation-oriented classes or labs
- Inappropriate disruptions
- Marked changes in behavior and/or appearance
- Excessive fatigue or sleep difficulties
- Visible increase or decrease in weight
- Exaggerated personality traits or behaviors (agitation, withdrawal, lack of apparent emotion)
- Excessive use of alcohol or other drugs
- Unprovoked anger or hostility
- Irritability, constant anxiety, or tearfulness
- Marked changes in concentration or motivation
- Overtly suicidal thoughts
- Dependency or seeking a lot of your attention
- Direct statements indicating social and academic problems, personal losses, break up, etc.
- Written notes, emails, or verbal statement that has a sense of hopelessness or finality
- Your sense, however vague, that something is seriously amiss
Converse with your student, when you know there is privacy, and when both of you have the time and are not rushed or preoccupied.
- Be direct, specific, and non-judgmental, and especially when expressing your concern.
- Avoid judging, evaluating, criticizing, even if the he/she asks for your opinion.
- Avoid offering advice outside your area of expertise.
Listen carefully and sensitively, to his/her thoughts and feelings in a non-threatening manner.
- Give your student your undivided attention.
- Communicate understanding by repeating back the essence of what he/she has told you.
- Let your child talk; don't minimize or immediately provide reassurance. Telling them that things aren't that bad, or that he/she has everything to live for will likely discourage further disclosure, and may increase his/her sense of guilt and hopelessness.
- Praise them for being open and honest with you.
Ask specifically about their level of risk (regarding suicidal thoughts)
- Ask if they have thoughts about suicide. Use the word suicide. This does not increase the risk, and most students are relieved to have someone to talk to about this.
- "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.
- Asking the above questions will allow you to determine if your student is in immediate danger, and to get help if needed. If your student is in immediate danger, consider this an emergency.
- If you feel yor student isn't in immediate danger, acknowledge the pain as legitimate and offer to work together to get help. Make sure you follow through.