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Guest Post: How often should you talk to your college student?

A timely post from a mom who knows.  Louise’s two daughters are attending Cornell University and University of California, Berkeley, while she lives in Sacramento, California.  Since her oldest daughter moved to New York, Louise has learned a few lessons about keeping in touch with her kids, while giving them space to grow. Her thoughts are below: 

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You and your college student are likely to have different opinions about how often to talk to each other on the phone, text, email or even Skype. I am not including writing real letters because it seems no one even does that anymore.

As parents, we want to know our kid is okay. Some of us want to know everything. Some of us just want to know all is well. Some of us are challenged to trust our kid to be able to figure things out on his or her own. Some of us wish our kid would figure out how to do things on his or her own. We all come in all flavors.

As newly launched college students, there is also a large range of how often to check in. Some want daily support. Others will talk when they have some challenge to deal with or when they have something great to report. Others will only talk when we call them, and briefly at that. And yet others will seemingly be difficult to reach.

How to handle the mismatch?

  • Don’t let how often you talk/text become a point of stress. This won’t serve anyone.
  • Talk about how often to check in – before they leave. (Remember your young adult may have one idea about this while still standing under your roof and a new one once away at school.)
  • It’s worth opening the topic, in case there is no natural rhythm that gets established, in case you want to talk to them more often than they want to talk with you, on in case they want to talk to you more often than you want to talk to them, etc. At least you have broached the topic.

In your chat about communication, consider:

  • What does your young adult need or want in conversations/communications from you?
  • What do you parents need or want in conversations/communications with your son or daughter?

From here, create a plan that satisfies all. Yes, both you and your student. You might flex more; they might flex more. An agreement that works well for both of you will be valuable in the long run. It is also not engraved in stone; things may change. It will leave the door open for more communication when needed by either of you. I know I am grateful that my kids call me when they are stressed, sad, stuck as well as happy, excited, proud or just tired.

It is important to loosen the ties and let them grow and explore and learn. Part of me wants to know they are thinking about me sometimes. When I can be patient and simply know they are, I find I am more likely to hear from them when they’re ready to share with me.

 

Louise’s previous posts also give insights for parents facing the imminent move of their first born to college:   Is My Nest Going to Be Empty? and Is My Nest Going to Be Empty? Part 2