Sending your child off to college can be an emotional time for everyone involved. As a parent, it can be especially hard to get into a routine of not having the student around. Setting boundaries and establishing rituals is important in maintaining healthy relationships with college-aged kids. Here’s how you can determine how often you should check in based on your student’s personality or situation.
The Homesickness Factor
One of the most normal phases of freshman year is going through some periods of homesickness. Even the toughest, adventurous, or independent students may go through this when first moving into dorms. Being in a stressful environment or having a lack of familial support only exaggerates it.
If your child is showing signs of homesickness, it may be tempting to increase your contact or encourage them to come home. However, it can harm the student if you tell them that you miss them, increase your phone calls, or pressure them to visit in order to feel better. Instead, ease back, encourage them to get out, and praise them when they find something new to love about living on their own. Set up weekly calls instead of nightly, and help them book one trip home soon so they have something to look forward to.
When we think of living on campus, we think of living more than a few hours away from home. Today, however, many students choose to live in dorms not far from where they grew up which can make it hard to determine how often parents should initiate calls or visits.
For homebodies who frequently visit, making calls short and to-the-point will help establish boundaries. You want the student to be independent (and do their own laundry), so over communicating can make them feel like they’ve never left. And it can encourage them to treat dorm life like they are commuting instead of living on their own.
The Long-Distance Students
One of the trickier parent-student situations is when a child decides to live on campus hours away from parents. In this case, it can be terrifying to ease back and let a student be on their own without checking in often.
In this case, it’s important to be honest and have a conversation early on what your student wants and what you expect in terms of them reaching out to you. Depending on your situation (such as if you’re paying their tuition or not), you may be able to call the shots. But as parents of adults, it’s important to remember that your student may not be on board with daily phone calls and video chats. Instead, ask them what they feel is appropriate and find common ground. Same goes for visits.
The Solo Student
A student who goes dark can be scary for parents. When you don’t know what they are doing or how they are feeling, it can be difficult to adjust to the new norm. But in many cases, a student wanting space is demonstrating to themselves and you that they are setting boundaries.
Using the same advice for long distance students, open the conversation. Ask them how much is too much when it comes to calls or texts. Ask if they prefer one way of getting a hold of them over the other. Suggest a code word for emergencies or a set day to have a check-in chat. They’ll love that you are respecting their wishes and you’ll feel better having a set routine to follow.
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