Whether you have an empty nest or your first will be heading off to college soon, adjusting to life at university isn’t just for freshmen. The entire family will feel the changes when your child heads off to college. Even the family pet will feel the loss. As college freshmen settle into their new surroundings away from home, many parents feel as if they’re pushed out of the loop. Phone calls become few and far between and let’s not even talk about those frustrating, unanswered texts.
It can be very difficult to keep in touch with college students when they’re away at school. It doesn’t matter the distance either. Teens living at nearby universities aren’t exactly talking to Mom and Dad a lot, either. So, what is an anxious parent to do? Don’t worry. We’ve got the top tips for communicating with your college student all semester long.
Keep in touch with your college student
First off, it’s important to discover how much is too much for your college student. While you want to make sure your child is actually going to class and eating a vegetable once in a while, it’s not a good idea to stalk. On the other hand, you don’t want to give them too much space either. Some teens adjust to college life with ease, but others struggle.
If you’re not keeping those lines of communication open, you won’t know if your teen is having difficulty making the switch from high school to college or suffering from a bout of homesickness. Like anything else, balance is vital. You don’t want to appear intrusive, but you also don’t want to be completely in the dark about your child’s college life.
Ways to communicate with teens at college
Before your teen packs up that final box, sit down and have a candid chat. While teens look forward to the independence college brings, make sure your teenager understands you’re always available to talk, especially if there’s a problem. Independence doesn’t mean zero contact with the family. Here’s how to keep in touch with your college student without being a pest.
Parents know the smartphone is an extension of their teen’s hand. That’s what makes those unanswered texts infuriating. Instead of bombarding your college student with a cascade of texts and calls, discuss before that last hug in the dorm room what’s an appropriate call-home schedule. Some teens may welcome a daily call or text chat, while others don’t. If your teen wants a daily check-in, embrace that and set up a time when you’re both available.
For kids who aren’t into an everyday catchup, pick a day and time when you can do a weekly call. You can make it a family FaceTime or a one-on-one with you or your partner. If you need that daily check-in, send a simple good-morning or have-a-good-day text, and hopefully, your college student will take a second to “like” it.
Send pet photos
If you have a family pet like a cat, dog, or bunny, texting cute photos of pets is an easy way to get your teen to respond to a text. Feel-good pet photos bring smiles and are a fun way to reach out to your college student without seeming like you’re stalking.
Have siblings do a check-in
If there are younger siblings in the mix, your college student may feel less pressure interacting with them via texts or calls. Brothers and sisters feel the emptiness, too, when a sibling goes off to college. Encourage siblings at home or away at college to reach out with texts about that winning goal or other things that are going on in their lives. The lines of communication aren’t just for Mom and Dad. Other family members, like grandparents, can also reach out via text or a phone call.
Snail mail hasn’t gone out of style, even though it seems like it with e-cards and social media. When your teen is away at college, getting a thinking-of-you or holiday card in the mail from the family brings a smile. It also offers a connection from home and reminds them they’re missed.
Mail care packages
Putting together care packages with teen must-haves or something fun like Halloween candy is another easy way to keep in touch with your college student. Who doesn’t love getting a package in the mail with goodies? Care packages don’t have to be a weekly thing, either. Send one at least once a month and remember to throw in some extra treats for the roommate, too.
Attend family weekend
Most colleges and universities hold a family weekend in October and again in the spring. Take advantage of the welcome mat your college student’s school is setting out. It’s a wonderful time to get a closer look at how your teen is settling into college. Sure, work, school, and sports schedules are busy at home, but make the trip for family weekend, even if it’s just a couple of family members. Seeing your college student in person puts your mind at ease or lets you know if your child is having difficulty settling in.
Plan monthly get-togethers
If your teen attends a college or university that’s relatively close, take advantage. Plan a monthly lunch or dinner and invite the roommate along. It’s another chance for you to get a window into your child’s new life away from home. If you’re empty nesters now, take a trip out to see your college student if the school is further away and incorporate a bit of travel for you and your partner.
Follow on social media
Following your college student on social media sites like Instagram and Snapchat is another way to keep in touch with your teen, but doing so can be a slippery slope. Some kids won’t accept the follow or have a separate account for what they show their followers and their family. If your college student does accept your follow request, resist the temptation to like and comment on every post.
While you’re keeping those lines of communication open with your college student, remember to focus on the positive. Don’t bombard them with questions about their hygiene and eating habits. Too many questions will make your teen not want to answer your phone calls. Instead, keep the conversations casual and when things crop up, you don’t necessarily agree with, try not to criticize. Take deep breaths if you have to.
Keeping lines of communication open
It’s a tough time for everyone when a teen heads off to college. Parents, siblings, and even pets feel the ripples of change. It’s an exciting and anxious time for your college student, too. Keeping in touch with your college student is important. Just like anything else with teenagers, it’s a tightrope walk. Try these communication tips when your kiddo heads off to college. Remember to get their input, too. Doing so will help both of you find the communication lines that work best.
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