Parents' Weekends at College Are a Chance to Help

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Parent and Family Weekends at college might seem like a good time just to have a reunion, but counselors and college officials who work with students, particularly freshmen, know it can be more beneficial than an opportunity to catch up and see your kid’s dorm.

When one father went to see his son during parents’ weekend, he learned that more had been happening than his son had relayed in emails.

“He had no idea his son's roommate got hit by a car and died until he went to the weekend,” says Natalie Caine, owner of Empty Nest Support Services, a Los Angeles based consulting firm that works with empty nesters. Caine says the son really finally opened up about the loss and sobbed over the death for the first time.

Parents’ weekends give parents and their loved ones an opportunity to see what might be really going on since the child left home two months ago.

Mark O’Brien, a licensed clinical professional counselor who works with Columbus College in Chicago and has a private practice, says the top five things to be on the lookout for during college weekends are signs of depression and anxiety, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, relationship problems and eating or other self-injury disorders.

O’Brien says he coaches parents on a system called BASEline, in which parents assess how their students are doing Behaviorally, Academically, Socially and Emotionally.

O’Brien says in his workshops he addresses these issues and coaches parents on seeing the warning signs in each area, which may include:

Behaviorally: Looking for an unsteady gait in you child’s walking, slurring words, signs of stress such as nervousness or anxious behavior – after, of course, being sure to pay attention to notifications from the college.

”Nothing is like being face to face,” says Caine of behavior issues. “You know who your child is and who he isn’t.” Caine says you might look for signs that are out of character for your child. For example, if your child was neat and well-organized at home and there’s towels and clothes all over the dorm room floor, that would be a sign there could be something amiss, such as  a high level of stress.