I am Family

Help! I’m worried about my student.

College can be an exciting time for you and your student. It can be full of new experiences, developing identities and personality traits, growing relationships, and maturing. It can also be a challenging time for both you and your student. It is common to worry about how well your student will manage, or already is managing, college-level academic work and how the development of a supportive social group is going. Also, although you may recognize that entering college coincides with entering adulthood and the development of new interests, values, and beliefs, you may experience anxiety about these changes as well as changes in your relationship with your student. If not initially, you may notice it down the line. It could be helpful to consider that you may both encounter changes requiring adjustments in your parent/guardian-child relationship. Below you will find tips and information that may help you navigate these bittersweet college years:


  • Educate yourself. Whether this is your first student or your last going to college, or whether it’s their first year or their third year, learning about what common development and struggles (PDF) are for your student’s life stage can be validating and useful in understanding and relating with your student. If you notice your student is in distress or you are noticing mental health concerns, it could also be beneficial to learn about mental health and any relevant symptoms. Engaging with relevant and reliable reading or media materials (some of which could be found on this page or under our Self-Help Mental Health page) can be a great start for learning.
  • Stay in touch and communicate openly. Express interest in your student’s life at college while being respectful of his/her/their independence. Be an active listener in the conversation. Your student may do things differently than you did at the same age–and that is okay. Respect their developing value system even if you don’t agree. ECU students are on a campus with immense resources and support to aid in the process of navigating their growing autonomy.
  • Offer support in a nonjudgmental way. If you are concerned about your student, share your concern without conveying judgment. Consider discussing observations and feelings rather than opinions and advice (remember SEEN (PDF)). Usually a parent/guardian’s best guideline is to provide a steady, supportive home base while recognizing that there will be ups and downs in students’ needs and expectations (i.e. maybe they didn’t want your help on Tuesday but now they ask for it on Wednesday).
  • Empower your student to help themselves. When your student is experiencing a problem, allow him/her/them to take an active and equal role in the problem-solving process. Try to follow the student’s lead and encourage them to work through a problem with you acting as the coach or cheerleader. This will promote the development of the skills and confidence to tackle tough issues independently. Taking a step back as a parent is uncomfortable, and sometimes frightening because there is no guarantee that your student will assume responsibility or make the same decisions you would; however, provide support to them as they figure it out (i.e. “we know you have to figure this out for yourself, but we would love to hear about what you decide”) and remind yourself that you are helping them develop essential skills.
  • Be aware of the common concerns new students face. If your student is struggling to figure out this big campus, make new friends, stay on top of classwork, or develop a sense of belonging at college, offer reassurance that this is a normal experience for new ECU students. Be prepared to suggest some of the campus resources designed to address these concerns, some of which you may find at the Dean of Students. Also, a new student’s first visit home can be an interesting one as they return home with their newly found independence in contrast with your expected ways at home. Instead of creating a situation in which a battle may ensue, seek a compromise that honors both the family’s needs and the growing independence of your student.
  • Be realistic about grades. The transition to college-level coursework is difficult, so students who excelled in high school may struggle with academics in college. Be supportive rather than punitive if your student is struggling and direct them to the many academic resources on campus, such as Academic Advising or PASC. Keep in mind that it is common for students to switch majors and take more than 4 years to graduate. Also, remember that students are more than their grades or academics – it is important for them to invest in other aspects of their wellbeing too.
  • Offer resources when they won’t share. Your student may have a difficult time sharing about what or how they’re struggling, or they may feel embarrassed or ashamed. If your student does not want to share or get help right now, let them know you care and are ready to help if they change their mind. You could offer other trusted outlets such as a counselor, their RA or Coordinator, or a professor if they prefer to talk to someone else. Some of these campus resources may also be helpful to provide.
  • Ask for help. Seek assistance or counseling for yourself when you feel challenged in your role during your student’s college experience. You can serve as a model for help-seeking that may encourage your student to do the same. You can remind your student that asking questions and using available resources reflects maturity and that doing these things does not detract from their autonomy or growth as an adult.


How do I know if my student is adjusting well to college?

Positive adjustments can look like:

  • Making new friends – not just spending time with one person or significant other
  • Engaging in other activities in addition to studying
  • Going to class regularly

What are typical reasons that college students seek counseling?

  • Relationship issues
  • Depression
  • Adjustment
  • Substance use issues
  • Anxiety
  • Trauma
  • Stress
  • Personal growth

What kind of counseling services do you provide?

We offer various services which include: urgent support services, individual and group counseling, workshops, referral services, consultation, and Collegiate Recovery Community. Our counseling services are intended to provide short-term assistance to students in dealing with personal, emotional, and mental health concerns which may be barriers to their academic progress. Referrals to off-campus mental health providers may be provided to best serve your student’s needs.

Who is eligible?

Any enrolled ECU undergraduate or graduate student can receive services.

Can I make an appointment for my student?

Appointments are made by your student, but you can support them while they make it. Your student can either call our Center at 252-328-6661 to schedule an appointment.

What if my student is not willing to go to your Center?

Listen to their reasons for not seeking help, validate their concerns, and encourage them to try. You may remind your student that seeking help is a sign of strength. In addition, remind your student our services are free and confidential. If they won’t go and you are very concerned, you can submit your concerns to ECU Cares (for non-emergencies; for emergencies contact 911) or talk with them about other therapy options if they prefer to be seen off-campus.

How does confidentiality work with my student’s counseling records?

Your student’s records and what is shared in counseling are confidential, which means we cannot share what is discussed with you without your student’s written consent if they are 18 years and older. We follow ethical standards and all state and federal laws regarding confidentiality.

Who are the counselors?

We have a professional staff consisting of several mental health disciplines. We also have graduate-level counselors-in-training who provide therapy under the supervision of senior staff counselors.

Resources for Loved Ones