Move-in day will be here soon and your kiddo will be leaving the nest. While they aren’t quite a full-fledged adult, they aren’t a little kid anymore either and many parents struggle with communication during this transition. Here’s how you can provide the support they need and let their professors do the lecturing.
Do keep in touch.
It’s okay (and encouraged) to call, but try not to overdo it. Your kid will be especially busy during their first few weeks, so let them get settled into a routine before bombarding them with questions. They’ll be more receptive once classes are underway and they’ve adjusted to the culture shock that comes with being a newbie at college. It’s important they assimilate into college life and develop independence so let them set the precedence for communicating and remember that no news is good news. It can also help to know your child’s preferences when it comes to phone time. Some students are more responsive to texting while others still prefer an old fashioned phone call. If you’d like a little more routine, try establishing a weekly call time, say Sundays at 8 p.m. You and your student may both enjoy the predictability. Try to keep them in the loop when you do talk and let them know what’s going on back home. They’ll feel left out if something happens and they’re the last to know.
Don’t offer unsolicited advise.
Your student may call home from time to time to vent about a tough day or an unfair group project. While your first instinct is to jump in and save the day, hold on. Count to ten. Your student probably just needs you to be a listening ear, unless they specifically ask for your advice. Your kid can handle most of what college throws their way so don’t overreact and don’t over-advise. The best thing you can do is listen and be supportive. If you have a solid relationship, your child will ask for your advice if they need it.
Do adjust your approach.
You’ve probably been on the other end of this conversation before, “Ok. Yep. Ok. Mhmm. Yep. Mhmm. Love you too, bye mom.” If you want a more meaningful interaction with your kid, try to make a few adjustments in how you communicate. When your kid does ask for advice, think of yourself as a resource rather than a mentor. Be loving and concise. For instance, if your student asks which detergent to buy, let them know what you think. But don’t try to educate them on mixing whites with colors or remind them of all of the reasons not to forget their laundry in the community laundry room. Your kid just wants to know what detergent to buy. Also, when you’re on the phone, pay attention to your student’s responses. If they’re no longer taking an equal part, let the discussion end before it turns into a lecture.
Don’t be a helicopter parent.
Want a well-adjusted college student? Stop over-parenting and let them become an adult. This means don’t call their professors, teaching assistants, room advisors or deans. (Yes, that happens.) Instead, enable your young adult to learn to speak on his/her own behalf. They might forget to turn in an assignment or be late for class but they’ll learn and grow from those experiences. Their hardships aren’t your failures and every kid makes a few mistakes. Keep in mind college is a middle ground for young adults; students must make their own decisions and take responsibility for them, but resources and guidance are there if they need it. This usually includes free mentoring services, academic advising, guidance counseling and easy access to part-time jobs. Your kid has the tools they need to be successful, if you let them. From a social stance, also avoid getting involved in roommate friction or boyfriend drama by sending texts or calling. Even with good intentions, a call from a parent makes your kid stand out, and not in a good way. See if you’ve been holding their hand too much, or just enough.
Do love from a distance.
There are several ways to show your kid you care, without overdoing it. Rather than calling every single day, get creative with other displays of affection. Care packages are the key to a college student’s heart and you’ll be the coolest mom if you send extra goodies for their friends. Your child will have limited access to cooking appliances so treats like bars, puppy chow or homemade chex mix are the gold standard. There’s no such thing as too many care packages and you can expect a call or text when your kid opens them. Also, when you see your student, send them with rolls of quarters for the laundry machine or stock their mini fridge for them. They’ll feel loved every time they pop open the gatorade you bought them. Letters are also fun to receive in college, just don’t expect one back. Seriously, you won’t get one back. If you want to go above and beyond, mail them a gift card to Walmart or a restaurant. Most importantly, let them know you’re looking forward to their next visit home.
Your goal in life was to nurture and develop your children into becoming healthy, strong and independent young adults. It might not feel good when you don’t hear from them every day, but this also means you have succeeded. The point is to be available, but not ever-looming and over-bearing. Trust that you’ve instilled good values in your kid and congratulate yourself on having prepared them for college.