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For Parents and Families

How Do I Know if My Student is in Distress?

We offer services for a variety of concerns.  As a family member, you might be the first to know when your student is in distress. It is important to listen and watch for thoughts, feelings, and/or behaviors that are unusual for your student. Below are some additional signs that might indicate that your student might benefit from a meeting at the Counseling Center:

  • Unexplained drop in academic performance
  • Difficulty sleeping or getting out of bed nearly every day
  • Feeling sad or appearing tearful nearly every day
  • Socially isolating and/or suddenly losing interest in previously enjoyable activities
  • Expressions of hopelessness, e.g., "What's the point of trying?"
  • Direct or indirect statements about death or suicide, e.g., "What's the point of living?" or "I wish I were dead"

What Should I Do if My Student is in Distress?

Talk to Your Student

Often family members are in the best position to notice any significant changes in their students and are seen as trusted and safe sources of support.  As such, if you notice any signs of distress or behavior that is out of character for your student, it is best to start with a conversation.  Through talking with your student, you can get a sense of what is going on and whether additional support is necessary.

Having this conversation can be difficult.  Here some suggestions:

1)  Be mindful of time and place.  Think about when your student might be most available to talk and which environment is best for them to have this conversation.

2)  How you say it is as important as what you say.  Maintaining a calm, consistent tone of voice will set the stage for a more constructive conversation.

3)  Consider how you approach the conversation.  Sometimes beginning the conversation by listing off your observations and concerns may shut your student down.  It may be more helpful to begin with broad, open ended questions about how they are doing at Bentley (e.g. “What are your roommates like?”  “Tell me about your classes”).

4)  Listening is important.  As a concerned family member, your instinct might be to try to solve your student’s problems.  While well intended, often times students in distress are simply looking for someone to listen to their experience. 

5)  Let your student know you are concerned about them.  It is important for them be aware that the people close to them have noticed concerning changes. 

6)  Let them know you are a source of support.  Sometimes students might not want to talk about what they are going through.  However, knowing you are available may increase the chance of them approaching you in the future.  If you are worried they are not able to be open with you, it may be helpful to mention our confidential services.

Assist Your Student with Making an Appointment

If, after speaking with your student, you both decide that making an appointment at the counseling center could be beneficial, encourage your student to call or walk down to the counseling center during business hours (we require that students make their own appointments). If this is an emergency, please go to our Emergencies page.

Fill Out a Care Report

If you continue to have concerns about your student, want someone to check-in with your student, and/or are having difficulty getting your student to seek help, you may consider communicating your concerns to the Bentley CARE Team. This team is a small group of university professionals who provide assistance, guidance, or feedback to students in distress. 

What if There is an Emergency?

In case of an emergency, please go to our Emergencies page.

Are Appointments at the Counseling Center Confidential?

State and federal laws prevent us from sharing anything about our interactions with your student (including whether they have attended an appointment) without first obtaining written permission. It is natural for you to want to hear about how your student is doing, however please know that confidentiality is required for effective care.

What Services Does the Counseling Center Provide for Students?

Please go to our services page to get a list and description of the services we provide for our students.


What Are Some Resources That I Can Direct My Student To?



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Parent Survival Guide

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Speak to Your Child in College

Letting Go: Tips for Parents of New College Students

The College Years: A Parent's Survival Guide

Books for Parents and Families

  • Letting Go: A Parent’s Guide to Understanding the College Years by Karen Coburn and Madge Treeger
  • When Your Kid Goes to College: A Parent’s Survival Guide by Carol Barkin
  • You're On Your Own (But I'm Here If You Need Me): Mentoring Your Child During the College Years by Marjorie Savage 
  • The iConnected Parent: Staying Close to Your Kids in College (and Beyond) While Letting Them Grow Up by Barbara K. Hofer and Abigail Sullivan Moore