College is described as many different things: the best four years of your life, an expensive price to pay for a future job or a time of exploration and freedom. No matter what you call it, college is an extreme adjustment. Students go from living an extremely structured life at home with their family to a life where they have to decide everything for themselves without any supervisors. As much of an adjustment as it is for the students, it is also a big change for parents as well.
When your kid goes off to college, it’s important that you support your student as they go through this difficult transition. It can be hard to be on your own for the first time, especially for a student far away from home. You can do this through little acts such as care packages and FaceTime calls or big acts like visits.
But it is also important to make sure you respect your child’s boundaries and not veer into smothering territory. It can be hard to toe that line, especially if this is your first kid in college, but luckily there are a few tips to keep in mind to ensure that you can support your student without being overbearing.
Agree on a schedule
The best way to avoid smothering your kid is to mutually agree on a regular schedule for calls during the week or month. This way you get to talk with your student and stay up to date with what’s going on in their lives without overwhelming them.
College students have a very busy schedule between classes, organizations and work, so you want to do everything that you can to not add too many things to an already packed schedule. Agreeing on a time to talk every week or two would be a great way to compromise between talking all the time and never talking, and it’s a surefire way to avoid smothering your student.
Plan a visit or two
Four months is a long time to go without seeing someone who you have lived with for the last 18 years, so planning a visit or two with your student is a great way to block off some times to see each other and make the semester a little less daunting.
Also, having a visit to look forward to will release some of the pressure that would build up to needing to talk to your child more than they are able to. Knowing that you will see your student in the near future will make it easier to give your kid some space and let them enjoy their freedom in college.
Keep in touch in unique ways
Another great way to stay connected with your kid without taking up too much time is by keeping in touch through unconventional ways. This could mean playing each other in a multiplayer game on your phones or sending five-word check-ins throughout the week over text. Finding small ways to keep in touch with your child without taking too much time out of their day is a great way to stay up to date on your kid’s life without being there for every moment of it.
Be patient, understanding and flexible
Above all else, understand that your kid is a student first, and so much of college is just being present in a shared space with other college students. My parents tell me all the time that they made their friends in college by keeping their door open so people could walk in or sit in the hallway and chat with people as they pass.
Students need to be able to live their own lives without being tied to their phone talking to their parents. This means that sometimes your planned calls might have to be pushed back a day or two depending on what events pop up, and while I know that it will be frustrating because you miss your kids, you should also be proud because that means they’re getting engaged at school and having a good time. Your student will reach out to you when they can, so avoid being overbearing by being patient, understanding and flexible with your child.
College is a big adjustment for students and parents alike, and it can be hard to navigate this new environment. Utilize the many parent resources that are out there, especially the parent pages on social media sites. There’s a lot of great advice from parents who have been through this before with their kids who can help you make this new change a little easier. By following the guidelines above, you should be able to keep in touch with your kid without being an overbearing parent.