Information for Families

Note From Director

Parents of today's college students face a dilemma−how to find a balance between caring and care taking. Unlike 30 years ago when many of you were driven to college and dropped off by your parents who thought you would make it somehow, today's parents have been more involved with their student's social, academic, educational, religious, and romantic lives. To detach and simply watch your students is a difficult task.

As students traverse the college years, you may struggle to find a new role in their lives. Many parents make the mistake of being what authors Neil Howe and William Strauss dub "helicopter parents"- hovering over their college student, ready to swoop in and "rescue." Most of us realize that the purpose of college is, in part, to help young people stand on their own and take the crucial steps toward adulthood while developing talents and intellect. But stories abound about the over-involved parent who is appalled by the student's choice of major, or grade in a class, or roommate, or romantic heartbreak and intervenes with faculty, staff, that nasty "ex" boyfriend or girlfriend, or the student themselves.

A smaller group of parents severely curtail their interactions with their collegian in the mistaken belief that those connections are no longer desired or needed by the student. Students often harbor profoundly mixed feelings about being "let go" and it is often you, the parents, who are required to read the signals and sort through the confusion.

Some concerned parents request university staff to continue "parenting" their student. Although we understand your concerns we are not able to honor requests. Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) cannot make wake-up calls, arrange class schedules to accommodate sleepy students, provide companionship for the lonely, arrange dates, or provide drug tests to see if your student is abusing substances. Staff members would like to support you and your students by respecting confidentiality, encouraging honest interactions between family members, connecting students and family to resources on campus and in the community, and challenging students to develop emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

Colleges should do as much as they can to provide a safe and secure environment. More importantly, they must help students learn to take care of themselves and to seek guidance on life's tough decisions. However, neither the institution nor parents can make the world entirely safe for young people and, as difficult as it may be to accept, there are limits to the ability to control what life has in store. According to Karen Coburn, assistant vice chancellor of Washington University , parents can best assist students by appreciating the students' "four I's-independence, intimacy, identity and intellectual development." You can assume the role of "coach," available to share advice when requested and reminding your student of the support services on campus.

Although CAPS is legally required to keep all interactions with clients confidential we welcome an opportunity to consult with you should you want to discuss concerns regarding your student and their life at USF. Please do not hesitate to contact the center with your questions or concerns. We hope to join you in assisting your student to achieve their academic and personal goals.

Barbara Thomas, Ph.D.
Director, Counseling and Psychological Services
Phone: (415) 422-6352
Fax: (415) 422-2260

Contact Info

Counseling and Psychological Services

Mon.-Fri. 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Gillson Hall, Lower Level (415) 422-6352 (415) 422-2260

Emergency Services

For emergencies, call (415) 422-2911 or extension 2911 from any on-campus phone. Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

After Hours Consultation

5 p.m. – 8:30 a.m., weekdays. 24 hours weekends and holidays. Call (415) 422-6352, press option 2.