Tips for Parents

How to Connect With Your Children After They Go To College

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By Lorena Roberts, Uloop

Being a parent of a college student is tough — don’t let anyone tell you differently. Whether you’ve just sent your youngest off to college or you’re anxiously awaiting your next child moving out in the future, it’s hard to gauge how you’ll stay connected to your children after they’ve left home. Some parents are better at sending their kids off to college than others. Some married couples look forward to all the time they’re going to have together now that they’re empty-nesters, while others dread that dinners at home are going to be a lot lonelier.

If you’re worried about how you’re going to stay connected to your children after they go to college, here are some tips for you:

1. Helicopter parents are frowned upon

No one likes having helicopter parents, and if you think back to when you were in your twenties, you probably didn’t want anything to do with your parents. You definitely didn’t want them showing up at your dorm room early on a Saturday morning, offering to take you to breakfast. So now that you’re in a different place, watch yourself. Being a helicopter parent won’t be your greatest trait. Give your student some space. If you’re worried about losing the connection you have with them, one way you can guarantee losing that connection is to hover over them and constantly bug them.

2. Find something you both enjoy

Going shopping at TJ Maxx with my mom is easily one of the most enjoyable things we do together (and no, not just because she sometimes pays). We stayed connected throughout college by making time for trips out shopping or coffee dates. Since I went to school out of town, I would have to come in for the weekend in order for us to hang out.

Find something both you and your college student like to do — and don’t be upset if it includes you getting the bill.

Maybe you’ll agree to monthly breakfast dates.

Maybe you’ll agree to movie nights.

But give them this opportunity to spread their wings and fly. As cheesy as that may sound.

3. Don’t give up. Keep reaching out.

Don’t take this the wrong way — I’m not suggesting you send 1 million texts throughout the week until your college student replies. I mean that if you send them a “have a good day!” text and they don’t respond, don’t be offended right off the bat. Give it some time and try again. I promise your student has no idea that ignoring a couple of texts is hurting your feelings. Keep trying to send text messages over a period of time. They’ll respond when they’re ready.

4. Don’t cut them out of family events.

Leave an open invitation for your college student to come along for family events. Whether it’s the annual Independence Day Barbecue or a big family reunion, at least being invited will make your student still feel connected to your family. Whether they accept the invitation or not is not the point. Keep giving them the opportunity to join in on the fun and they’ll be sure to come home when they feel they need to.

5. Welcome them home for weekend visits.

When your college student decides that they want to come home for the weekend, welcome them with open arms. Chances are, they’re coming home because college is getting hard and they’re feeling a little down. They need food that hasn’t been microwaved and sleep that isn’t interrupted by a snoring roommate.

6. Send them care packages.

Getting mail in college is equivalent to winning the lottery. It’s the best. Especially when it includes food/cookies/snacks/microwaveable anything. Sending your college student a care package full of supportive notes, their favorite pens, and cookies will make them feel loved more than anything else you could possibly do for them.

7. Continue to be their support system.

Going to college isn’t the easiest thing in the world – especially on top of moving away from home, having to make new friends, and living in a room with another person. Continuing to be their source of support throughout college is the best thing you can do for your student. If you went to college, it’ll be easy to remember how tough some of those days were, and how lonely it can truly feel.

Parenting a college kid is a weird time — you don’t really have to be their parent anymore (or you shouldn’t have to) but they still need you for advice, food, and money. When they go off to college it can feel like you’ve been totally disconnected from them – you might find yourself asking who they even are anymore. It’s tough to watch them go through this transition without being there for them.  Staying in touch and continuing to communicate on their terms is the best way to stay connected to your college kid after they leave home.

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