How can you "let go" of your child without cutting off your love and support? It's not as hard as you might think. In general, students simply like to communicate with their loved ones on their own terms in their own time.
Here are some ways that you can stay connected without infringing on your child's new-found freedom:
- Provide your child with a pre-paid phone card that he or she can use at any time. It's a gentle way of reminding your child to stay in touch. Consider giving your child a cell phone if he or she doesn't have one.
- Communicate via e-mail. It's inexpensive and allows the student to communicate with you as his or her schedule allows.
- Write letters. Many students look forward to the mail delivery every day, even though they don't always have the time to write or call in response. Don't take it personally.
- Check the college's website. Many have a "Parent's Corner" that contains important information about what's happening at the school.
- Send small care packages with items such as treats, quarters for doing laundry, flowers and local news clippings.
- Visit your child during Parent's Weekend. Don't plan to spend every minute of both days with your student. Let your student set the tone for how the weekend is spent.
- Allow yourself to be a "shoulder to cry on". College is stressful and frustrating for many students. When your child calls or writes, listen and don't be judgmental. Students usually aren't asking for a solution to the problem. They simply want to vent to someone.
If your main form of communication is the telephone, here are some ideas for getting the most out of your conversations:
- Make a list of items you want to discuss. Keep it near the phone so that when your child calls, you can cover any important topics.
- Begin your calls with positive news. Don't put a damper on the conversation by immediately bringing up bad news.
- Share news about yourself and life at home, but don't go on and on about people your child doesn't know or like.
- Let your child determine the length of your talk. He or she may need to study or go to class. Controlling the amount of conversation is also another way your child can exercise his or her freedom. If you need more time, ask to schedule some uninterrupted time to talk.
- Don't ask a question if you don't want to hear the answer. If you respond in a judgmental fashion to something your child tells you, it will limit how much he or she shares with you in the future.