Resources for Parents

Dear Parents,

We are happy that your student has chosen the University of Scranton! Please be assured that both the Academic and the Student Life offices will do their best to help ensure that your student has a successful and satisfying experience over the next couple of years.

We believe that a student's success at the University of Scranton will be enhanced by the collaborative efforts of parents, faculty, and student services such as the Counseling Center. Thank you in advance for letting us know how we may help you make your student's years here more fulfilling.

We invite you to consult with us by calling (570) 941-7620.


The Counseling Center Staff

How does my student mature during these college years?

While physical maturation may be complete by the time your student leaves for college, emotional/psychological development is not. According to psychosocial theorists, persons ages 18-25 have several tasks to accomplish. Among these are:

  • Achieving competence
  • Establishing identity and integrity
  • Managing emotions
  • Becoming autonomous

For first-year students, this may involve:

  • Adjusting to new living conditions
  • Making a whole set of new friends
  • Dealing with lifestyle pressures
  • Learning to manage unstructured time
  • Attending to academic demands without adult pressure to do so
  • Learning how to live independently from family, while remaining connected emotionally and financially to that family

Since this is a process that occurs over time, these tasks do not end after a student's first year. Since academic pressures generally build as the student progresses, they will likely continue to feel the effects of various stressors.

We also encourage parents to recognize their own issues of "letting go." This is especially difficult when the first or last child leaves the nest. Separation is truly a family task, which parents and children need time to negotiate. Consider the picture of holding your child in open hands as all of you do the difficult work of separation/individuation.

When should I be concerned about my student's mental health?

Students in distress often show some signs and symptoms which family and friends may have the opportunity to observe. In general, these signs will be a change from their "normal" or usual behavior. If you notice any of these signs, please talk with your student and consider the help of a mental health professional:

  • Noted isolation from friends and family
  • Marked change in appearance
  • Drop in grades and/or erratic class attendance
  • Increased substance use/abuse
  • Excessive self-criticism
  • Noted decrease in energy and motivation
  • Inability to think and concentrate
  • Traumatic changes in personal relationships, such as parental divorce, breakup of romantic relationship, death of a loved one
  • Violent behavior or threats of violence
  • Reference to suicide or self-harm

As a parent, you may feel overwhelmed or overburdened by your student's problems. Consider that this feeling may be an accurate indication that your student may benefit from professional help.

The thought of suicide is so scary; how can I talk to my student about that?

Suicide is a scary topic, and certainly not every parent and child need to have this discussion. However, if you see some questionable warning signs, consider asking the student, "Have you ever had thoughts of hurting yourself?" or "Are you having suicidal feelings?" Contrary to popular opinion, this will not make matters worse. People consider suicide when they are suffering and see no other way out. By talking openly with them, you let them know there is another way.

Consider consulting with a professional at the Counseling Center if you need assistance in how best to approach your student about this sensitive issue.

For more information regarding suicide, please visit The Jed Foundation at

How can I talk to someone about my student when I'm told "It's confidential"?

In Pennsylvania, students who have graduated high school and matriculated college are considered adults in terms of their rights to confidentiality in a mental health setting. In general, mental health professionals cannot break that confidentiality unless it is determined that there is a clear and present danger that someone's life is at risk, there is apparent abuse of a minor, or in response to a court order.

A counseling relationship works best when the student is confident that their counselor will not talk to parents, roommates, or faculty without their permission. In other words, the student must be assured of confidentiality in the counseling session. When a counselor believes that parental involvement would benefit the student, the counselor will ask the student's permission to contact the parent(s). In most cases, this permission will be granted and a conversation may take place between the counselor and parent(s).

If you ask to speak with a counselor who has not received permission to speak with you, the counselor will listen to your concerns, ask you to speak with your student about granting permission for exchange of information and perhaps give you some general information concerning the issues you raise without discussing the specific student. The parent is not the Counseling Center client, so a counselor will be unable to promise secrecy regarding the call itself or the content of the call.

There may also be offices on campus which do not have the legal and ethical standards to which counselors must conform where you may be able to discuss your concerns.

How can I be sure that my student is safe at the University?

We wish that we could tell you that nothing bad will ever happen to your student while they are attending this university. Unfortunately, as you know, sometimes we can't even promise safety in our own homes. The University makes every effort to provide a physically safe and emotionally nurturing environment in the residence halls, classrooms, and the University's public spaces. When situations occur in which a student feels unsafe, they should first contact the appropriate Residence Life professional and/or University Police at (570) 941-7777.

Should there be an ongoing need for a student to deal with a difficult situation, the University's Student Services and on-campus resources should be contacted. These offices may provide immediate or long-term assistance depending on their role and function.

As a parent whose student is dealing with a difficult situation, you can be very helpful in supporting your student, encouraging them to seek help when needed and affirming your unconditional love, no matter what may happen. We encourage you to stay involved in your student's life.

Additional Resources

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