Written by Sherri Gordon for VeryWell Family
Your parent-teen relationship will definitely go through some changes. But, if handled appropriately, the changes will result in an independent, responsible adult in the end. In the meantime, here are some ways in which parents can stay connected to their kids without infringing upon their child’s space:
Negotiate How Often You Will Communicate
Before your teen heads off to college, it is important that you decide together how often you will communicate and with what method. Most parents opt for once-a-week communication with their new college student and more if the student feels they need to talk.
The goal is to allow your teen the freedom to communicate with you when they feel they need too, but also allow you the comfort and security of knowing you have a time set when you can connect with them. By establishing these guidelines ahead of time, you will be less tempted to call your college freshman every day. Additionally, your teen will realize that it is still important to check in with you on a regular basis.
Be Open to More Than Just Phone Calls
Some parents of college students enjoy using FaceTime or Skype to communicate with their college freshmen instead of a phone call. This way, they can see their teen’s face complete with messy hair, rolling eyes, and goofy smiles. Just try not to nag or make negative comments if their appearance catches you off guard. Instead, just enjoy the time you have to share stories with one another.
Keep in mind, your college freshman will need to be considerate of their roommates. They also may feel embarrassed or be more reluctant to share if they feel like they have an audience. So, do not get disappointed if you do not get a lot of detailed information.
Texting Is Great for Quick Contact
Many parents have found that texting their student a quick question, sending a cute picture of the family pet, or uploading a quick video clip are great ways to let their college student know that they may be away at school but they still are an important part of the family.
The other great thing about texting is that it allows the teen some control over the communication. Not only are they not required to respond right away, but they also can ignore the text if they are in class or studying.
Send Love From Home
Every college kid loves to get packages and real mail. Whether you send their favorite treat with a note, a heartfelt letter, a cool notebook or an elaborate care package, your college student will greatly appreciate it. Plus, it may really brighten a stressful day.
Some parents even take time to bake their favorite treats and send them in a care package once a month. Just remember, if you plan to send food, you might want to wrap things individually, as it is common for students to share the wealth with their roommates and others.
Be Creative With Your Communication
Some parents have set up a private Facebook group where they share everything from photos and announcements to videos and inside jokes. It is a great place to keep all the personal family information in one place. And if your college student is missing home, they can always go to that page and scroll through the photos and watch the videos. Meanwhile, other parents have signed their teen up for monthly subscription services that send products like journals, candy, or makeup once a month.
Take Advantage of Parent’s Weekend
This is a free invitation to visit your college freshman and one where you will likely be welcomed. So if you can manage it, make sure you take the time to spend the weekend on campus with your teen. It gives you something to look forward to after you drop them off and it gives them a chance to show you the campus and tell you all about their first few months.
Do not be offended if it is time for your weekly Skype visit and your teen just isn’t in the mood. College can be stressful at times and there will be days when your teen is simply in a bad mood. Try not to take it personally and make the most of the conversation. If things are just not going well, you can always ask if your teen wants to talk tomorrow instead.
Do Not Go Too Far
While it is true that you miss your teen and you just want to hear their voice, be sure you are not overstepping any boundaries when you do communicate. Remember, every time your new college freshman is talking, texting or communicating with you, they are not studying. They also are not out building new relationships and meeting new people.
Do Not Give Them Wake-Up Calls
Your teen is in college now and should be able to get up for that 8 a.m. class on their own. After all, you want them to become a self-sufficient, responsible adult, right? If you are that worried about them getting up in the morning, invest in an alarm clock that shakes the bed or has a very loud alarm. And if they do happen to sleep through that really important midterm, that’s part of learning too.
Avoid Embarrassing Them
Even though you follow your child on Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat does not give you the right to embarrass them. For instance, do not post pictures from their childhood without their consent. You also should avoid “parenting” over social media. In other words, do not call them out publicly for a post that you think is alarming, dangerous, or offensive. Instead, have a private conversation about it. Or, use text or email to make your point. But do not post your disappointment on social media.
Refrain From Too Much Engagement
You do not need to text your teen every day. Sending messages just for the sake of sending them gets really annoying and they will start to ignore your communication altogether. While it is nice to text them “Love You” or “Miss You” once in a while, do not go overboard. Also, avoid stalking your teen online. You need to give them space.
Don’t Make a Surprise Visit
No one likes a surprise visit, especially not a college student. Remember, they likely have plans and if you surprise them with a visit, they will feel obligated to spend time with you. You also are likely to encounter a very grumpy teen.
If you are going to be near the campus and want to stop by, ask permission a few days in advance. Keep in mind, your teen will want to clean up their room, hide anything they do not want you to see, and make sure their friends (and significant other, if they have one) are on high alert.