There is no doubt about it that once your child leaves for college, the amount of day-to-day (or hour-to-hour) contact you have with them changes. Being miles, and sometimes miles and miles away can put a strain on a relationship. And then there is the issue of knowing how much “checking in” is too much…or not enough. Is there a norm for how often college students talk to their parents?
We’ve heard from many of the parents in our Paying For College 101 Facebook group about their dilemma of how to keep the lines of communication open, but until now, hadn’t heard from students themselves.
Here is one student’s account of how she (and some of her friends) keeps in touch, in spite of being away from home with a very well-packed schedule. It’s a good lesson for those who are away and are trying to exert their independence, while still being mindful of where their home sweet home is.
Staying Connected With Family While at College
During my first year of college, I was a very confused soul. I thought that going to college meant you shouldn’t rely on your parents at all, no matter how much help you needed. Even when I wanted to touch base with my parents because of a tough day or a collegiate misadventure, I tried to resist because I thought “I’m in college. I’m an adult now, so I have to handle it myself.”
Learn from my rookie mistake. Even though you’re now a college student who is experiencing new freedoms and challenges, you don’t have to do things by yourself. There’s a way to navigate your newfound independence without abandoning those back home.
Furthermore, keeping in touch with the ‘rents isn’t only good for keeping tabs on the Netflix password and family pet. It gives your parents a chance to check in, make sure you’re doing okay, and offer to send care packages in times of turmoil (aka midterms and finals).
“My College Student Never Calls”
Despite the obvious benefits of staying in touch with your parents, it can be tricky to find the sweet spot between communication and over communication. I’m really close to my dad, so I call and text him every day. That much contact could be cloying for other people, while a different group might prefer to call and text from waking up to going to sleep, which would be cloying for me.
As a new college student, how do you figure out when to check in between a schedule full of classes, extracurriculars, meetings, and social events? After all, how can you find the time to text when you can barely schedule time to study for all of your exams? And once you figure out when to reach out, you have to figure out the best method? Is it some funky combination of FaceTiime, texting, and calling? Just one of those things? Some of them?
Ways for College Students to Stay in Touch With Their Parents
Staying in touch ultimately looks different for everyone, but hopefully some of these tips can help you find a strategy that fits both your lifestyle and your schedule while satisfying your parents’ need to make sure you haven’t been buried under an avalanche of textbooks and study guides.
The easiest (and least commitment heavy) way to reach out is through texting. Texts are a short and snappy way to keep in touch when you don’t have time for a longer conversation but want to remind your parents that you’re still alive and in need of some good home cooking or a timely care package. It’s also the easiest thing to build into a daily routine.
A simple “good morning” or “goodnight” text doesn’t take much effort, but pays dividends by reminding the people who love you that you’re thinking about them.
The consensus from the parents in the Paying For College 101 group has been that texting is by far the most common way that students keep in touch.
“My son calls when he needs advice.”
“More texting comes when more stress is involved.”
“We’ve never talked on the phone as much as we do now.”
“I text, asking if it’s a ‘good time for a phone call.'”
“When we haven’t heard from him in a while, I post a photo of his dog on Facebook and tag him. He likes it. We know he’s alive.”
“We say ‘good morning’ and ‘good night’ every day.”
Sometimes it helps to parcel out time for longer calls so you and your loved ones can get a little bit of human interaction. There’s something reassuring about hearing your parent’s voice after a stressful day or a rough exam. That’s why I try to squeeze in a phone call whenever I’m walking somewhere, even though my schedule is usually booked back to back.
Sometimes the conversation continues after I reach my destination, but it’s usually enough time for a quick chat to make sure everything is okay on both ends. Having somewhere to be is also a subtle way to control the length of the conversation if you want to check in, but don’t want to talk for a long time.
The Best Times to Talk to Your College Student
Be aware that coordinating calls can be a little tricky across time zones and around multiple schedules (after all, college students aren’t the only ones who are busy!), so this might not be the best strategy for everyone.
If walking and talking doesn’t quite work for you, you might want to schedule out a time to talk every week or share a few times that you’re generally available. If you build chatting with your loved ones into your routine, you won’t feel stressed about making time to talk with them, and they’ll get to hear your voice every week.
It’s a win-win.
Weekends don’t usually hold the hustle and bustle that weekdays do, so you might consider scheduling your catch-up time before brunch on a Saturday morning or during a Sunday evening study break.
If you decide to go this route or you have a little more time on your hands than usual, you might decide to Zoom or FaceTime. Even if it’s through a screen, it’s comforting to see the people you love and know that they’re doing well.
Plus, sitting down and making time for a video chat is a significant gesture. It shows that you care. Some students even use Snapchat to this effect! After all, a quick snap can be a fun, quirky way to check up on your family.
If you go to college near where your parents live, you might be able to see them in person.
Theresa, a student at Georgia Tech, gets to see her parents every week this way. She says, “I see my parents every Wednesday night for choir rehearsal and every Sunday morning for worship!” Before their weekly arrangement, she made sure she called or texted whenever she had a spare moment in her schedule.
Other Ways to Stay in Touch
If none of this appeals to you, forge your own path!
It’s a little unorthodox, but I have a friend that emails her parents. It works for them. When I’m feeling sentimental, I’ll send a postcard or write my parents a letter. The quirky, off the wall ways that you choose to keep in touch can turn into little keepsakes that everyone treasures later on.
As you can see, it’s easier to stay in touch than you think. With a little foresight, you can arrange a method that works for you and your loved ones.
Even though it might be your first time on your own, you shouldn’t forget the people who helped you get where you are today. By taking a moment to FaceTime, make a phone call, or text “I love you,” you can show your parents that you’re thinking about them while maintaining your newfound freedom.
Use College Insights to help find merit aid and schools that fit the criteria most important to your student. You’ll not only save precious time, but your student will avoid the heartache of applying to schools they aren’t likely to get into or can’t afford to attend.
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