How to Communicate With Your College Children

By Shelley Frost
Respecting your child's schedule and need for independence supports a positive relationship.
Respecting your child's schedule and need for independence supports a positive relationship.

Keeping in touch with your college-age child helps ease the transition, but too much contact might make her feel smothered. The loss of everyday contact makes some parents uneasy about the safety and well-being of their child. The pressures of college and temptations to drink or take drugs weigh on a parent's mind. Finding the right amount and type of contact enables you to stay on top of your college student's life without becoming the overbearing parent that drives her away.

Talk to your college student about communication before she leaves for school. Let her know you understand that she needs space, but you need to keep in touch for your own peace of mind. Ask how she wants you to communicate with her. She might want to hear your voice several times a week or she might prefer primarily email communication that she can respond to when her schedule allows.

Let your child take the lead on the amount of contact you have. Too many calls from Mom and Dad might frustrate her or make her feel as though she doesn't have any freedom. Too little contact and she might feel as though you forgot about her.

Stay in touch using methods other than just phone calls. A care package lets your college student know you're thinking about her and gives her a connection to home without intruding on her independence. Using Skype or other video chat options might help a homesick student feel closer to home. Visiting your student at school gives you a glimpse of her life so you can connect better with her.

Chat about her life to get an idea of what she's experiencing without asking for too many details. Get to know about her schedule, connections she's making on campus and what she does in her free time. Let the conversation naturally unfold by asking follow-up questions as you talk. Listen for annoyance in her voice to learn when to back off.

Listen with an open mind when you talk to your college student. Avoid the urge to fix her problems or offer unsolicited advice. Help her come up with solutions or listen to her as she thinks aloud about her problem. Show empathy to her circumstances without getting too upset yourself.

Let your college student know you are always open to hearing from her. Encourage her to call you when she needs to vent, feels overwhelmed or has exciting news to share. This lets her know you are available even though she's on her way to adulthood.

About the Author

Based in the Midwest, Shelley Frost has been writing parenting and education articles since 2007. Her experience come from teaching, tutoring and managing educational after school programs. Frost worked in insurance and software testing before becoming a writer. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education with a reading endorsement.