Engaging Your Student in Difficult Conversations

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For all students and their families, the start of a new academic year brings excitement, hopes, and visions of successful academic and personal experiences. Georgia Tech can be a place where all students can thrive academically as they are challenged in new ways to learn and to grow in their knowledge. Georgia Tech is also a place where students can thrive in their development as young adults as they establish social connections and relationships with their peers and others in our community. At the same time, a student’s college experience can also be a time of stress and oftentimes, students may not be as open to seeking help to manage their stress or may not know how to ask for help.

Parents’ changing roles and responsibilities are inevitable during this time as students make the transition into young adulthood and establish their own sense of independence and connection with others outside of their families. At the same time, parents and families can play a critical role in maintaining connection with their students to continue to mentor and guide them through the difficult times. But it can also be difficult for parents and family members to know how to help and how to approach a difficult conversation with a son or a daughter experiencing some challenges.

The key to approaching students with difficult conversations is to already have established a solid, healthy relationship built on trust, openness, and mutual respect. A healthy relationship with your student can pave an easy path to approaching many tough conversations, some of which may deal with academic concerns or emotional wellness. Each of these areas of concern can have signs or indicators that a student might be experiencing some difficulty. For more information on these signs, visit the Center’s website at

The other key to approaching difficult conversations is to inquire specifically about a concern. For example, if there is a concern about academic issues, specific questions to ask would be, “Are you attending all your classes?”, “What specific help have you sought out or tried to help you with your classes?”, or “What are some of the academic resources that you are familiar with at Tech that can help you?”

Academic struggles can also be followed by emotional or psychological struggles. After providing some concerned observations (e.g., “It seems like you’re feeling down or feeling stressed about school.”), some questions to ask your student might be, “What specific ways are you trying to cope and manage your stress and how effective has it been?”, “In what other ways has it been difficult to find motivation or enjoyment?”, or “Have you felt so depressed or stressed that you’ve thought about suicide or harming others?” For students attempting to cope with stress, some may engage in unhealthy ways of coping, such as alcohol or other substance use. It is particularly important to talk directly with your student about your observations and concerns directly and to provide information on resources where help is available.

As the academic year progresses, the Counseling Center is open to consulting in appropriate ways with students and families regarding the types of services that are available as well as a variety of other service options. We encourage all parents and families to visit our website at

About Us

The Georgia Tech Counseling Center, a unit of the Division of Student Life, is dedicated to supporting the educational mission of the Institution and the Division. We provide short-term counseling services (individual counseling, group therapy, couples counseling) to address a wide range of personal and career concerns. Our services are available at no charge to currently enrolled students. The Counseling Center is accredited by the International Association of Counseling Services (IACS). The Counseling Center is also a training site for graduate students and pre-doctoral interns in psychology. Our training program offers supervised training experiences in providing direct psychological services to students and the campus community. The pre-doctoral internship training program is accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA) and is the Center is a member of the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC).


  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: Sara Warner
  • Created: 09/03/2015
  • Modified By: Fletcher Moore
  • Modified: 10/07/2016


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