College Kids: Keeping in Touch

Have you just sent your child off to college for the first time? This can be a really tough time for mothers. You may have the urge to call her every 15 minutes and may even want to check that she gets home safely every night, but you know that’s not the best way to go. So you ponder where that line is between growing a healthy relationship and going overboard.

Well, that line can be a bit blurry, and each mother-child relationship is unique in where that line is. So if you’re not sure, why not just have a quick chat with your child on some communication standards? For example, you may want to talk throughout the day, while your child may be content calling a few times a week. You may need to compromise a little on how often you call. Or in the opposite situation, you may have a child who wants you to call several times a day and is perpetually homesick. In this case, you may need to actually cut back on calling for his own good, so he has the opportunity to learn independence.

As you talk with your teen, try to look at the situation from both sides. Your child may be so excited about his first taste of independence that he may seem a bit distant. Plus, he’s going to be so busy getting used to his new environment, making friends and studying, that he might become engrossed in his new lifestyle. It’s not that he has stopped loving you or wants to completely alienate you — he’s just going through a new stage of development. He wants you in his life — he just doesn’t want to be treated like a little kid anymore.

And help him understand that you’re not trying to dominate his life, but you still want to be an important part of it. And even though your teen is becoming an adult, you will be his parent forever. Your relationship may change, but you are still his family. So when you do call, try to keep the focus on building that relationship, not checking up on him or prying into his life.

So once you’ve talked through your expectations with your teen, start having fun with keeping in touch. Sure, email is great, and cell phones make calling easy, but get a little creative. If you’re comfortable with technology, you can have occasional conversations through instant messaging and webcams. If someone in your family is good with graphics, you could take a digital photo of your family, add messages to it on the computer, and essentially customize your own family greeting card.

Or, if you prefer the old-fashioned method, send cards. When I was in college, email wasn’t readily available, and my mom sent me weekly envelopes stuffed with things from home. It might have included some mail I received at my home address, a few newspaper clippings of local news or a funny comic strip, or even a little card with some “pizza money” in it. I really looked forward to my envelopes each week — it made me feel connected to my family and hometown. So consider sending the occasional hand-written letter or card — or even a postcard just to say hi. And of course, those care packages stuffed with homemade treats are always welcome!

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