Staying Connected To Your College Kid — What To Expect
Knowing what to expect in terms of communicating with your child after he or she goes to college may help you avoid some issues and angst later. My friends with daughters tend to hear from their girls more than my friends with sons do, however I realize that this is a broad generalization and each child and situation is different.
My oldest son was really bad about keeping in touch when he was in college. When I hadn’t heard from him in a while and became worried, I would “poke” him on Facebook. Although he rarely had time for conversations, emails or even texts, poking seemed to fit into his busy schedule. I would breathe a sigh of relief when I got a notification that he had poked me back because I knew he was out there. Now that he is older and in law school, he keeps in contact much more regularly. I still may not get a ton of specifics but I do receive brief texts and phone calls, which makes me happy.
My middle son is a sophomore in college and, like his older brother years earlier, he hasn’t been great about keeping in touch. Often days go by without a word from him. This is the same son who, when he was in high school, was pretty good about checking in or texting me to just see how my day was going. I know that college is a very busy time for kids; they have classes and homework, sports, and in my son’s case, an outside job, fraternity obligations, and numerous other activities. I understand that with such a hectic schedule, parents and siblings are not the highest priority.
When I was in college, there was one phone for the room or suite in which I lived and I generally called home once a week, at night, when the rates were cheaper. My parents didn’t expect more and in many ways, it was easier for all of us. The advent of smart phones has lead to a belief that our kids will be in touch with us because they can be. We know they are constantly looking at their phones and when we do not hear from them it can lead to disappointment, hurt, and in my case, anxiety that causes my stalker tendencies to emerge.
A few weeks ago my middle son failed to let us know that he had lost his phone. When I was unable to contact him, I posted a message on his Facebook wall. Big mistake. Apparently this method of trying to reach one’s child is embarrassing to them and a big parental no-no. When he didn’t respond to my Facebook plea and also didn’t answer the emails my husband and I sent, I freaked out even further and texted two of his good friends to see if they had seen him. My mind started racing with every possible dire situation that could have occurred, while my husband wondered why our son suddenly hated us so much that he wouldn’t return our texts or those of his younger brother. After my husband and I whipped each other into a frenzy of paranoia, I asked one of his friends to go find him so that I would know that everything was OK. Apparently this was a parenting faux pas worse than posting on his Facebook wall. When his friend tracked him down on the soccer field, my son yelled at me because he felt humiliated in front of his friends. I actually didn’t care that I had incurred his wrath; I was just glad to hear his voice and know he was alive and well. For those parents whose children have not yet gone to college and are convinced that their kids would never be so thoughtless as to neglect to contact them, I suggest that until your child has graduated without scaring you to death at least once, please don’t judge. Next year, when my son is a junior and goes abroad, I know the time difference and distance will add to our communication difficulties. I only hope that by then he will understand that our wanting to hear from him stems from our love, our desire to know he is healthy and happy, and a longing to stay close.
The takeaway message here is that when your child leaves for college it is probably best to keep your expectations for contact low; don’t assume you will hear from him or her every day. Perhaps work out a rudimentary system in advance, like Facebook poking, regularly scheduled phone calls or family group texts. Try to keep excessive worrying and stalking to a minimum. If you don’t hear from your child or he doesn’t return a text or email, don’t immediately assume he’s been eaten by dinosaurs; lost or broken phones and hectic schedules are more likely the reason. Most importantly, try not to take a lack of contact too personally; know that this is a temporary phase and that your child will be eager to reconnect with you again before long.
About Marlene – Marlene Kern Fischer is a wife, mother of three sons, food shopper extraordinaire and blogger. In addition to Ten to Twenty Parenting, her work has appeared in Grown and Flown, Kveller, Beyond Your Blog, Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop and Better After 50.
You can read more from Marlene on her site!
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