Student Counselling Service – Information for Parents, Guardians and Partners
Starting university can be a wonderful and exciting experience, but it can also bring its own unique challenges. It’s natural for students to feel nervous or overwhelmed during the first few weeks, and it can take time before they have settled in. If your student is having a hard time emotionally, you should encourage them to avail of the Student Counselling Service that is there to help them at University. This service is provided free of charge by qualified and experienced professional Counsellors and Psychologists.
Counselling provides a safe, supportive and confidential environment in which students can discuss any emotional or psychological difficulties they may be experiencing. The Counsellor will use their training and expertise to help them clarify what issues are impacting on them and their life, and then facilitate exploration of how they can find better or different ways to support themselves.
What issues do Counsellors deal with?
The short answer is everything, really! They deal with a wide range of issues including depression, anxiety/panic attacks, transitions, mental health difficulties, bereavement and loss, interpersonal or relationship problems, family difficulties, self-esteem, trauma, including sexual trauma, academic issues, eating disorders, self-harm and suicidal thinking. Whatever issue your student may have, we encourage them to seek support.
How does your Student make an appointment?
Students can contact the counselling service in any of the following ways:
Call the Student Counselling Service Administrator on +353 (0)90 646 8063.
Use our walk-in service between 2pm – 3pm daily
The Student Counselling service is located in the John Count McCormack Centre on the 1st Floor.
Can you talk to a counsellor if you are concerned about your Student?
Staff at the Student Counselling service are available to talk to concerned parents/guardians and partners, but they will not be able to tell you if the student is attending the service. Neither will they be able to share any information about their wellbeing due to confidentiality. However we are able to advise you in general terms about possible support and resources.
How can you help your Student before they start university?
Many first- year students will experience some homesickness which is understandable given the tremendous transition that students face at university. It is important to remember most students do settle in. Be encouraging and supportive to them during their transition, keep talking to them, and help them identify practical steps that they can take to support themselves.
Tips that may help
- Preparation – any improvement in practical skills will really help – cooking, budgeting, shopping, cleaning, or timetabling - just talking about these things can help improve confidence
- Expectations – Help your student develop flexible expectation by encouraging them to think about different scenarios they may encounter both positive and negative. It can be helpful to rehearse with them lots of potential versions of how it might be.
- Emotions – Let them know that negative feelings are okay. Talk to them about the fact that ups and downs are normal, encourage them to look after themselves, do things they enjoy early on, stay active and get involved in university as much as possible.
- Friends – Encourage them to think about the type of friends they would like to have and where they might find them at university. They may make friends in their student accommodation or on their course, but it is important to keep an open mind. Help them to investigate what clubs and societies are available that they could join.
- Stay in touch – Agree when you will be in contact with each other to give you both reassurance and space
How can you help your Student when they start university?
Every student will have their own unique experience of university. Most students focus on socially integrating at the beginning and on their studies later. The first 6 weeks can often be the most difficult as your student adjusts to the new changes/environment - reassure them that this usually passes.
Tips that may help
Talk - ask them how they are getting on but avoid interrogation. Gentle open-ended questions can help such as ‘How are things going for you so far?’ or ‘How are you managing the academic side of things?’ Reassure them that it is normal to feel anxious at start of university life but also to check in with them especially if you feel they are not themselves ‘You seem quieter than usual is everything ok in university?’
Support - keep in good contact and encourage them while they are acclimatising to their new surroundings. You could agree a visit and get a sense of their new environment, meet their friends, become familiar with Athlone
Avoid making any significant changes at home for at least the first semester if possible - they are already adjusting to their new university environment, too much change can be very unsettling
Coming home may require some adjustment from both you and your student; as they may have changed in their appearance, views and expectations
Challenges for Parents/Guardians
Moving to university represents a significant step towards adulthood for your student. Whether they continue to live at home or go away to attend university, the move represents an emotional separation for both you and your student. Your role undoubtably changes, supporting them more from afar while they negotiate their new learning environment and build their independence.
Adjusting to this change can be challenging as a parent/guardian and you may experience a range of emotions. It is okay to feel excited, nervous, upset, sense of loss, set free or anything else that comes along!
Tips that may help
Communicate with your partner or friends; talk about how you are feeling, share your worries, process the change/loss
Look for the positives that you can find in this new stage; has it created more time in your life that you can use to focus on yourself
Readjust your identity as parent/guardian; As you play a new role in your student’s life it is import to readjust your identity as a parent/guardian. The goal is to develop an adult-to-adult aspect of the parent child relationship. Children always need parents/guardians, but the relationship may become more peer like. Accepting that adult children want more privacy in certain areas of their lives is part of this process