How to Stay in Touch with Your College Student

When kids head off to college, their communication habits change. Parents might not see their kids for weeks or months. For some families, this new-found separation can be challenging — especially during the first year, as both sides adjust to being apart. On one side, parents want to
know how their kids are doing in school and in life. On the other side, college students may want to embrace their new independence (but, at the same time, may feel a little homesick). How do families adjust? Here are a few tips to keep the doors of communication open.

Set Expectations

Before the school year begins, both sides need to establish a few rules, boundaries, and expectations. These differ from family to family. Some kids may be fine with one method of communication over another. They may want to use Facebook exclusively, rather than relying on phone or email. Other kids may want limited communication, perhaps a call once every couple of weeks. At the same time, parents need to set their own boundaries to ensure they aren’t over-communicating or being too present when it isn’t necessary or preferred. Families
should sit down and discuss how they will communicate, and then follow through.

Nuture Independence

When kids are away at college, they’ll make new friends, learn about themselves, and may start to grow apart from their parents. It’s important for parents to accept this as a normal part of life. When parents are more accepting and open, kids are often more willing to communicate when they know they won’t be judged. This doesn’t mean parents can’t be critical of their kid’s choices, but the criticism needs to be clear and not judgmental.

Embrace Alternate Methods of Communication

Communication often takes work. When parents are busy at home and kids are busy at college, time can easily slip away. Even when expectations are set, that weekly phone call might be forgotten. Parents may need to embrace other forms of communication and adapt to changing schedules. Maybe social media is the answer. Or maybe a handwritten letter is the best way to keep the stream of communication flowing smoothly. Either way, when everyone makes the effort to call, email, or message one another, the challenge of separation (and personal growth) becomes that much easier.

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