Information For Parents

College is a time of significant change for college students and it can sometimes be hard for parents to understand why their child may be struggling or the cause of their struggles. Below are some examples of how life or college may be different from the life students have experienced before.


Opportunities Challenges
Academic Freedom Academic Responsibility
College Thinking High School Thinking
Explore a multitude of learning venues Procrastination and lack of motivation
Learn from passionate instructors Tension with instructors
Participate in invigorating classroom discussions Avoidance of classroom involvement
Navigate meaningful career possibilities Tests, grades competition, performance anxiety, and diminished study and time management skills
Uncertain vocational goals and career direction


Opportunities Challenges
Social Freedom
Social Responsibility
Meet new friends
Finding a niche, loneliness, diminished social support, homesickness
Participate in campus community
Interpersonal conflicts, coping with loss
Professional networking
Making difficult choices - drugs & alcohol, sexual health, and personal safety
Romantic relationships


Opportunities Challenges
Personal freedom Personal responsibility
Identity exploration Self-esteem issues
Value clarification Confusion, difficult ethical choices
Moral development Parental pressures and expectations
Enhanced family connection Financial concerns
Improved wellness Unbalanced lifestyle, unrealistic expectations
Crisis and unexpected events


Substance Use Statistics


  • 37.1% of college age drinkers met the criteria for alcohol abuse within the last two weeks.
  • 24.7% of students did not designate a driver when they partied.
  • 34.9% of students do not keep track of how many drinks they have.
  • 15.5% of students report drinking 10 or more days out of the month.

Source – American College Health Association, National College Health Assessment, Reference Group Executive Summary, Spring 2006


  • 2nd most abused drug on campuses in the U.S.
  • 14.4% of college students use at least once a month

Commonly abused prescription medication

  • Adderall & Ritalin
  • Xanax
  • Painkillers
  • Muscle Relaxants
  • Anti-depressants

The Changing Mental Health Needs of Today’s College Students

  • Increased demand for counseling services
  • Increased levels of student stress
  • Increase in serious diagnoses
    • Severe depression
    • Eating disorders
    • Bipolar disorders
    • Anxiety disorders

A Hopeful Statistic

  • 73% of college students say their parents are their leading influence for health-related information.

Source – American College Health Association, National College Health Assessment, Reference Group Executive Summary, Spring 2006

What is a Parent to Do?

  • Be understanding and supportive of the intensity of demands on students; listen first.
  • Ask what they are doing about problem situations – reinforce constructive behaviors.
  • Encourage seeking help from professors, Math, Computer and English Labs, etc.
  • Don’t be afraid to share some of your own academic struggles.
  • Be aware of supports available at the university and point them in those directions (Reading Center, Writing Center, Sam Center, Counseling Center, Career Center)
  • Continue the dialogue
    • Don’t glamorize drinking
  • Communicate regularly & ask a lot of questions
  • Create shared expectations
    • Set realistic goals
  • Expect your student to be responsible for their actions
    • Discuss consequences
  • Know and Respect the law and university policies
  • Share the facts
    • Low risk drinking vs. high risk drinking
    • Helping a friend in danger

Changing Roles: The Five B's

  • Be Active
    • Ask questions
  • Be Aware
    • of the signs of distress (see below)
  • Be Careful
    • of becoming the “helicopter parent”
    • Try to walk the line of between there and letting them make the mistakes they need to in order to learn
  • Be Understanding
    • that this is their college experience
    • not yours, their siblings, etc.
  • Be Supportive
    • in spite of new ideas... and piercings...and tattoos...


Tips for Recognizing Distressed Students

Marked Changes in Academic Performance or Behavior

  • Poor performance and preparation
  • Excessive absences or tardiness
  • Repeated requests for special consideration especially when this represents a change from previous functioning
  • Unusual or changed pattern of interaction
  • Avoiding participation
  • Dominating discussions
  • Excessively anxious when called upon
  • Attention/memory difficulties
  • Disruptive behavior
  • Problems with roommates or family
  • Exaggerated emotional response obviously inappropriate to the situation

Unusual Behavior or Appearance

  • Depressed or lethargic mood
  • Hyperactivity or very rapid speech
  • Swollen or red eyes
  • Change in personal hygiene or dress
  • Dramatic weight loss or gain
  • Strange or bizarre behavior indicating loss of contact with reality
  • Abrupt or radical changes in behavior
  • Overuse or regular use of illicit drugs, alcohol, and/or medication (without medical monitoring)

References to Suicide, Homicide or Death

  • Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
  • Overt references to suicide
  • Isolation from friends or family
  • Homicidal threats



Sam Houston Counseling Center

Box 2059 | Huntsville, TX 77341-2059 |Phone: 936.294.1720 |Fax: 936.294.2639