Going off to college is often a young person’s first taste of freedom. Immersed in a vibrant campus community with no curfew and very few rules, college students can often “forget” their parents in their excitement. Sadly, as students happily explore their newfound independence, their parents go through what may be saddest, most difficult transition of their lives.
Keeping parents in the loop while not staying tethered to them is a delicate balance that requires patience, understanding, and communication.
1. Establish a pattern of keeping in touch
As students try to manage the rigor of academics and extracurricular activities, many find it easiest to call their parents during a set time each week. Before long, the family will know that Sunday afternoon or Tuesday evening is when they talk on the phone. Students, try not to ditch the weekly call if you can help it, particularly during your first year away. Your parents may have looked forward to the call all week.
2. Set boundaries on what you tell your parents
Undoubtedly your parents will have lots of questions about who, what, where, when, and why. To become independent, students must decide what’s important to share with parents and what’s off limits.
3. Use technology to keep correspondence interesting
With communication methods like Skype, email, and texting, there are multiple ways to keep parents in the loop without taking time for a lengthy conversation. Keep in mind that if you “friend” your parents on Facebook, they will be privy to your world at college.
4. Inform your parents of your travel plans
Parents are not ignorant of spring break or Mardi Gras. It’s up to the student to decide how many small details they want to share with their families. However, for safety’s sake and to ease their parents’ minds, students should at least tell their parents when they plan to leave the country and where they plan to stay. Sending a postcard wouldn’t hurt, either.
5. Send your parents the college newsletter
Parents have a vested interest in the school their son or daughter attends, particularly if they’re helping to foot the bill. Sending them the newsletter or other school literature will keep them informed of school activities. Campus life is also a “neutral” topic that helps steer the conversation away from your personal life.
6. Be courteous
Courtesy goes a long way as you navigate away from your parents and into your own life. If your parents ask you something you don’t necessarily want to answer, kindly say, “I’d rather not talk about that right now.” In time your parents will stop asking about a particular topic, such as your dating life.
7. Be consistent
Parents tend to freak out when they don’t hear from their son or daughter for weeks on end. Staying in touch on a regular basis will help your parents navigate this difficult transition.
The good news is that parents eventually adapt to the idea of having their child at college, and may even enjoy the change. In the interim, it’s very important for college students to ease the transition by keeping their parents in the loop. Likewise, parents must release their child into the world to learn how to live independent of them.