Parents & Guardians

How Can Parents Help Their Students?

The college years can be a time of both excitement and stress for students and their parents. Students face numerous challenges while at college, such as choosing and preparing for a career path, developing peer and romantic relationships, and learning about their own unique values and identities. Sometimes these challenges can lead to difficulties.

Problems that students sometimes experience while in college include difficulties with depression, anxiety, stress management, substance abuse, eating/body image issues, or relationship concerns. Learning or attention-related problems also occasionally arise during the college years. If these problems are not addressed, they may result in emotional, academic, or social difficulties for the student. The Counseling Center can often help students resolve their concerns so they can feel better and get “back on track” with their academic work.

Often, parents are among the first people to notice when their student is experiencing difficulties. If this happens, parents are encouraged to contact the Counseling Center to discuss strategies for helping their student. Such strategies may include encouraging the student to take advantage of on-campus resources such as the Counseling Center.

We recommend parents explore the Student Services tab above to learn more about the specific services we offer at the MSU Counseling Center.

First Year Parents & Students

Transition is a website designed to give parents and students support through their transition year. It has tips on managing stress for students, tips for how to communicate with your child for parents and much more!

Calling Students

Parents sometimes ask us to call their student to encourage them to make an appointment at our Center. Because of confidentiality, the Counseling Center is unable to initiate telephone calls to students. We recommend that parents take an active role in encouraging their student to call the Counseling Center to set up an initial screening appointment. If a parent is visiting their student on campus, they may consider offering to walk to the Counseling Center with the student.

Mental Health Emergencies

If you believe that your student is experiencing a mental health emergency (that is, their safety is at immediate risk), call for help immediately or click here for the on- and off-campus emergency numbers. In some instances, parents may choose to come to MSU in person so that they can help resolve their student’s crisis.


All Counseling Center services are confidential. Although we understand parents’ interest in knowing what is going on with their student, we are unable to disclose information without the student’s written consent.

The following lists the ten most frequently presented problems for which MSU students seek services at the Counseling Center:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety, nervousness, worrying
  • Schoolwork and grades
  • Relationship with romantic partner
  • Self-esteem, self-confidence
  • Procrastination, getting motivated, managing time
  • Relationship with family and parents
  • Decision about major/career
  • Concentration
  • Irritability

Intervention Tips

Here are some tips for concerned parents who believe their student may be experiencing difficulties.

  • Offer Supportive Feedback:  In a supportive manner, let your student know the reasons you are concerned. Be sure to be specific about what you have observed.
  • Normalize the Student’s Experience:  It is not unusual for students to have their first encounter with depression or anxiety during this time of transition and life changes. It may help your student know that because college can be stressful, many students experience some temporary depression or anxiety while in college.
  • Clarify Expectations and Roles:  College is a time when students and their parents experience changes in their roles and expectations for each other. In most cases, students benefit when parents and students clarify their expectations as well as the consequences of not meeting these expectations.
  • Encourage the Student to Meet with a Counselor:  It might help your student to know that they may come to the Counseling Center for one session to see whether or not counseling is the right solution for them. In other words, coming to the Counseling Center for a consultation meeting does not obligate the student to continue in counseling. Our staff are interested in helping each student determine what interventions might work best for them. Sometimes counseling is a good strategy; at other times, non-counseling strategies are more helpful.