Keeping In Touch
The college transition can be scary for everyone; however, maintaining and setting ground rules will help make this process easier. Parents and family members struggle to find the balance between abandonment and constant intrusion in their student’s life. Here are some tips for keeping in touch with your children during the first few months of college:
- Be clear about your expectations for contact. Set a standard early with which you and your student are comfortable to talk and catch up. You may want to set a standard day (Sundays are popular) and let your student initiate the call, or just randomly drop them a line or an e-mail to see how their week is going. Ask your student for input in setting new house rules that show respect for both parental authority and student independence.
- Rely on technology. Use text messaging, social networks, email, or instant video or chat programs to express your feelings. Technology is faster and your child is already familiar and comfortable with them. Phone conversations, especially at the beginning, can be awkward and emotional for everyone.
- Send an (unannounced) care package. Students enjoy getting mail! It reminds them that there is a world outside of their college life. Packages do not need to be huge boxes that are difficult to carry across campus; a letter from home, some pictures and some of his/her favorite candy are perfect reminders of your love, especially during finals and midterms.
Once you’ve established a routine, it will be easy to remain a part of your child’s life during their college career.
What to Expect
- Trust them. The college experience represents the first opportunity for most students to try out their independence. Because many situations are new to first-year students, expect them to make mistakes. When they do, it is important to keep in mind that few of the mistakes they make will be irrevocable or disastrous. Many of them will be surprisingly similar to the mistakes made by most other college students, and all of them are an opportunity for your student to grow into a more responsible and conscientious adult. They will know if you are worrying, so try your best to put all your faith in them.
- Changes. Most college students change significantly in their first few years at the University, whether it be dress style, interests, attitudes, or habits. Even something as small as their diction may be completely different after a semester far from home. Don’t draw attention to it, but be aware of it. They’re still sorting out who they are.
- Don't panic when they panic. Being encouraging and supportive at these times will go a long way to help them see that their problem may be more manageable than they thought. It will also strengthen your relationship when they see how strong and helpful you are.
- Stay informed. Being informed about campus life and events can be a rewarding experience for parents, and at the same time make you important resource for your student. Knowing when their midterm and final exams are will help to explain why your child is edgy. Being aware of study abroad programs gives your child a sound board if they want to visit a foreign country. Helping them understand their financial aid plan will keep you on the same page for payments and job searches.
Starting Points for Conversations with your Student
Allow students space to talk and be a good listener. Asking too many questions at once may lead to your son/daughter feeling trapped or overwhelmed. Pointed or overly specific questions may make him or her feel uncomfortable. Some basic questions that might spark more personal ones are:
- How has freshmen year been so far? Has it met your expectations?
- How are your classes and professors? Are they interesting?
- What do you do outside of class? Did you join any clubs?
- Have you met anyone interesting?
- How are your high school friends doing