No matter how proud you are of your college-age child, having them leave your home each semester will always feel difficult. Not only do you miss them while they’re away, but you find yourself wondering what they’re up to, how they’re doing, and, of course, if they’re thinking of you and missing you, too. Of course, if they do, most young adults will have a difficult time letting you know. In fact, communication in general can be very difficult between parents and their children whenever they’re away from home to attend school.
Thankfully, there are lots of simple things you can do to stay connected, whether your child is extending their wings on a local college campus — or all the way across the country.
Below are five easy ways you can maintain a strong, healthy relationship with your college child without them feeling like you’re not giving them the space they need to grow.
Stay Connected with your College Student
1. Learn Their Schedules
Now that your child is in college, they’re developing their own daily routine, which includes classes, studying, and spending time with friends. The more you understand what their new schedule is like, the better you’ll be able to find time to communicate — without interrupting or feeling like you’re being ignored. As much as you might want them to answer your calls or respond to your text messages when it’s convenient for you (and as soon as possible), it’s actually a good thing that they’re learning how to manage their own time. Remember, college is a big stepping stone into real life. So, the better they can set boundaries and organize their time while on campus, the better they’ll be able to succeed in the real world after graduation.
Respecting your college student’s schedule is also important because it shows them that you respect them, too. If your child only sends you a quick text or is brief on the phone, recognize that there’s likely a good reason for this — they’re busy studying, just stepping into a classroom, or trying to catch up on some much needed sleep. By sharing with your child that you want to respect them and their schedule, you actually give them an opportunity to share with you parts of their college life you might not otherwise know. A clean and simple glass dry erase board like this one with a weekly layout is all you need, and can be easily updated each semester as their schedule changes. Occasionally thank them when they choose to share a part of their new life with you, even if it’s just letting you know that this Friday they have an extra long chemistry lab in the afternoon. (Now you know why they might not answer a call!)
"By sharing with your child that you want to respect them and their schedule, you actually give them an opportunity to share with you parts of their college life you might not otherwise know."
And, speaking of schedules, creating a schedule for your communication with them is a great idea. Ask them to plan ahead when you should give them a call and set expectations for how often you’ll be in touch. The more your child understands the importance of communication, the more willing they’ll be to maintain healthy contact.
2. Always Respect Privacy
One of the biggest mistakes parents of college-age kids makes is not respecting their privacy. Today, much of your child’s life is public thanks to social media accounts. However, that doesn’t mean that you should become too active on these profiles. Of course you want to stay connected with your college student, but if your child knows that you’re always watching (and perhaps critiquing) every post they make, then there’s a good chance they’ll start to purposely keep things from you, which is the exact opposite of healthy communication. While it’s fine to like a post every now and then, or offer words of encouragement or a funny remark, keep your comments in check. If you know your child would be embarrassed (or annoyed, or frustrated) by something you’d say online, then do your best to refrain from saying it — especially in a public format.
"If your child knows that you’re always watching (and perhaps critiquing) every post they make, then there’s a good chance they’ll start to purposely keep things from you, which is the exact opposite of healthy communication."
As their parent, you will of course want details about certain events. And you may even have questions or sage advice about something that’s going on that you’re seeing online. If and when you do, don’t make a public post. Try giving your child a call or sending them a quick text message to let them know what you’re thinking. But, again, limit this type of communication to only when it’s essential. If your child finds that you’re constantly offering feedback for every single social media post, then you will quickly notice a lack of interest in communicating with you.
3. Reach Our In A Unique Way
Hand written notecards become cherished keepsakes
Knowing your child, chances are their entire life revolves around their phone and being online. And, once they start college, even more of their time will be spent in front of screens, whether studying for an exam, writing a paper, or staying in touch with friends. As their parent, one of the best things you can do is find ways to create meaningful conversations that take them away from this digital norm. For a lot of parents, sending a handwritten note card is surprisingly effective when it comes to communication — and it’s fun, too.
Not only is getting an actual handwritten note in the mail novel, but it’s something that likely no one else is doing. That means, when your notecard arrives, they’ll be excited. Even if your card is short, just a couple of sentences wishing them luck or telling them that you miss them, this gesture will go a long way at showing them just how much you miss them — and how important communication really is. Send beautiful custom stationery with colorful artwork like these here, here, and here. Writing note cards and sending them in the mail is an excellent way to stay connected with your college student because it takes time, and your child will recognize that. And, chances are, they’ll want to reciprocate by doing the same.
4. Send Personal Care Packages
The idea of a college care package isn’t new, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not a great way to stay in touch with your child. These care packages do a lot to keep parents and children connected — and they definitely help your child remember just how much they love being home. In order to make your care package extra special, do your best to think of personal touches that your child will appreciate. Whether it’s a favorite homemade treat, something they mentioned casually in a previous conversation, or a hint of an inside joke that only you and them will understand, personal care packages are one of the best ways to put a smile on your child’s face. This one from Aevum + Ink from from even includes a personal alarm that will set your mind a bit more at ease as she navigates her new surroundings.
5. Embrace Videos
Stay connected with your college student
Today’s technology makes sending and receiving videos easier than ever, and that’s a great thing for parents with children off at college. More than a phone call or text message, videos instantly transport your child, letting them see your face and other things they miss from home, like their siblings, family pets, or even just favorite local spots. So many parents have found the beauty of using videos in text messages because it’s a fun way to stay in touch without being intrusive or disruptive.
You can also use videos to stay connected with your college student by way of FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, or other video calling services. These live videos are an amazing way to feel connected and to allow each other to get a glimpse into what’s really going on in their world. Of course, because they are so personal, sometimes it’s best to send a quick text first and request a video chat whenever your child is free.
And while loads of communication with your child is great, if you find yourself constantly wanting to be in touch then you might consider looking for other ways to direct your free time. As much as you miss your child, learning how to develop a new type of relationship is essential; this is the relationship you’ll most likely have from now on. The more you can learn to let your child live their own life, and even solve their own problems, the happier you both will be.
It's absolutely possible to stay connected with your college student and form a new, different bond as they enter the next phase of their lives.
"As much as you miss your child, learning how to develop a new type of relationship is essential; this is the relationship you’ll most likely have from now on."
When it comes down to it, communication should be easy and natural, which means your child never feels pressured or annoyed. If you start to sense that your child is needing more space, give it to them knowing that this is a healthy part of growing up. And, above all, make a promise to your child (and to yourself) that you’ll never be one of those parents who shows up on campus unannounced. When you do visit, let it be planned — after all, you’ve been talking with them about it for weeks, right?
Note: We frequently suggest products we love - items we make at Digibuddha, and others we've curated along the way. Sometimes we're paid a small percentage if you purchase something we recommend, but we'd never share any product we didn't genuinely love. We enjoy supporting small businesses and local artists, and let's be real - we're also on Amazon many times a day! As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.