How to Help (Parents and Family)
How can I support my student from a distance?
- Often, the parental role changes from primary caregiving to fostering independence during the undergraduate years, so try to find a balance by keeping in touch while allowing your student the opportunity to learn to manage life independently. For example, arrange a few times during the week to talk on the phone and try to avoid constant contact via phone call, text, etc.
- Keep conversations open-ended. Give your student space to share information with you and be careful about being overly critical and judgmental. You want to encourage safety but you also want to present as someone that can tolerate the changes they are making in their lives.
- Be aware that Appalachian State has an array of resources for common student concerns, such as the Counseling Center’s self-help page, the Career Exploration Office (opens in a new tab), and the Office of Student Success (opens in a new tab). Familiarizing yourself with these resources may also be useful:
- An additional helpful resource for students new to college and their families: Set To Go (opens in a new tab)
Guidelines for talking with a student in distress:
- Listen attentively and respectfully to their concerns.
- Ask clarifying questions when needed.
- Collaborate with the student about what actions or resources could help them.
- Help the student recall effective methods used in the past to cope; help the student to do something constructive to take care of themselves.
- Be willing to validate fears or reservations about seeking help.
- Trust your insight and reactions while respecting the student’s own point of view.
- When called for, let the student know you are worried about them. List specific behaviors or examples of why you or others are concerned.
- If you are concerned the student may be feeling hopeless and might be thinking about ending their life, ask if they are contemplating suicide. It is important to remember that talking about suicide is a cry for help and is not to be ignored.
**This information was adapted with permission from the University of Florida’s Counseling Center.
- If you are concerned about your student’s safety due to thoughts of suicide, visit Appalachian's Prevent Suicide (opens in a new tab) website.
- If your student is unsure whether they have a problem, suggest the Counseling Center’s free online screenings (opens in a new tab) for depression, anxiety, eating disorders, alcohol use, bipolar disorder, and traumatic stress. These anonymous screenings can provide feedback and recommendations.
If you would like more ideas on things you can say to check in with your student and offer support, we are available to consult with you. The Counseling Center does not typically contact students for you, but we do want to help you in reaching out to your student and expressing your concern. If you are concerned about your student’s safety, encourage them to utilize our emergency services or contact us on your own so that we can help you establish a planned way to offer your student support.