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Cougar Health Services for parents

Preparing for your student’s visit

Your Coug is about to complete their first semester of college and will soon be traveling home for the holidays. It is important to recognize since their move, family dynamics, and expectations have likely shifted. Prepare for their visit by understanding these changes are normal to experience.

One of the more obvious changes your student has gone through is finding a sense of independence. This change is expected as your student moves away for the first time. However, it can be one of the more difficult changes to adjust to as a parent and family unit. Adjusting to an unfamiliar environment and schedule is a major challenge for most students. The shift in your Coug’s independence is an indication of a healthy transition.

Before their move to WSU, your student had a higher level of dependence on you. They had daily interactions with you and the family, followed household expectations, and their activities relied on your approval. These are the behaviors and expectations you have been accustomed to for their entire childhood and teenage years.

However, during their visit home, your Coug may expect flexibility with curfews, have a different sleep schedule, and make plans with friends. These behaviors may not be what you had in mind and might make you feel placed on the back burner. It is normal to feel frustrated and even disappointed during this time. What you’re feeling is the tension of two separate worlds coming together.

Your student’s plans may not align with your plans during their visit home. Understanding their plans and intentions during break can explain some of the frustrations you are feeling. Make sure to communicate any concerns you have while seeking to appreciate your student’s perspective and feelings. Visits are a learning experience for both you and your Coug. It’s okay to experience ups and downs during this time. While it is important to be supportive and understanding, your student still needs to respect specific responsibilities and rules you have set for the family.

Use these tips in preparation for your Coug’s first major visit home:

  1. Be open and supportive of the person your Coug is growing into
  2. Strike a balance between their new independence and family expectations
  3. Inform your student of any important changes within the household
  4. Ask your Coug if they have any plans during their visit
  5. Don’t overschedule their break

7 tips for talking about suicide

7 tips for talking about suicide

When the topic of suicide comes up, you may feel nervous or uncertain about what to say. You might even be afraid you’ll put someone at risk if you talk about suicide. But this isn’t true. In fact, talking about suicide, even if it’s just a short conversation, can encourage people who are at risk to seek help.

Research indicates that certain types of news coverage can increase the likelihood of suicide in vulnerable individuals. But it isn’t just the media that influences people who are at risk. Conversations and reactions to suicide by peers and community members can also impact people who are struggling.

At WSU, we want to encourage members of our community to get help when they experience thoughts of suicide or other mental health concerns. To make this happen, follow our tips below to ensure you’re talking about suicide in a way that is helpful.

  1. Offer hope by sharing about the many resources and treatment options available to people struggling with thoughts of suicide
  2. Share information about warning signs and encourage others to add the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to their contacts
  3. Talk about mental health concerns as a normal, common experience and emphasize the value of getting help when needed
  4. Refrain from sensationalizing or glamorizing suicide
  5. Avoid speculating and sharing misinformation
  6. Avoid using dramatic or graphic language, including discussion of methods for death by suicide
  7. Educate yourself by seeking out information from suicide prevention experts

Do you want to take an active role in reducing stigma around mental health or learn about how you can support someone experiencing a mental health crisis or suicidal thoughts? Sign up for our Mental Health First Aid workshop or Campus Connect.

These tips are adapted from Reporting on Suicide’s Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide.

Parents: Talk to your student about relationships

Dad and son talking

We strive to educate our students about violence prevention, but this is something we cannot do alone. We need parents, caregivers and mentors to join conversations about violence prevention and healthy relationships. We need your help.   

You may be surprised to learn that teens rely on parents, rather than friends, for guidance about these issues. We encourage you to have open conversations with your student—regardless of their gender—about dating, sexual relationships, healthy boundaries and consent. The key is to let your Coug know they can always come to you if they have questions or need support.

If you’ve already had conversations about healthy relationships with your student, we encourage you to continue.  For many, having these conversations isn’t easy and we recognize that.  It can be difficult and sometimes awkward to talk with your student about violence prevention and relationships.  But we promise it’s absolutely worth it.

To get the conversation started, keep it simple:

  • Look for opportunities to weave topics of sex, gender, dating and communication into everyday conversations. You could talk about a TV show, news story or blog post that relates to these topics, and ask your student what they think about it.
  • Talk about consent, and the university’s definition of consent in sexual interactions.
  • Reinforce that Cougs take action when they see someone in a risky situation or someone who needs help.
  • Talk about values your family shares, and what these look like in dating and sexual relationships.
  • Review WSU’s policy prohibiting discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual misconduct.
  • Ask about the Safety on Campus workshop your student attended during Alive!
  • Talk about boundaries, and let your student know that no one has the right to push them further than they want.

Even though your student is now an adult and has moved away to college, you still play a vital role in influencing them to make healthy decisions throughout life.

By educating yourself about this important issue, you will be better prepared should your student ever come to you asking questions about how to handle a particular situation.  Visit oeo.wsu.edu to learn more about the university’s process for handling instances of gender-based violence.