As Told By Teryn: Communication
by Teryn Stewart
As a parent or family member of a RETURNING college student, you probably have already discovered that keeping in touch with your student is not nearly as easy as it was before college. It makes sense, considering your student may not be living at home anymore, but even if they are living at home, they now have an incredibly busy academic and social calendar. Is it still possible to rekindle communication and keep in touch on a regular basis?
For parents and family members of a NEW college student, you may now be realizing that your student does not answer your phone calls or return texts as quickly as before, if at all. Do not worry! The transition to college is one of the biggest experiences your student has gone though, so it makes sense that your student is trying to navigate how to be independent - independent of his or her parents and families.
|As a junior at Pacific, I have gone through the emotions of that initial separation - when my mom finally left after helping move me in, and my roommate and Ilooked at each other like, "now what?" I will admit I was terrible with communication for the first year; my parents and I had monthly phone calls and the occasional weekly text, but the good news is that it slowly progressed. I know nothing about psychology, but if I had to look back and figure out why I wanted such distance from my parents, I would say it was because I was trying to discover who I really was. The funny thing about that is I have never changed; I was really just trying to like the person I had always been. The first year of college definitely kick started the self-discovery process, but it was not until I moved across the world that I completed the process.|
|I did not realize how much I needed and relied on my parents, even in the times we had not talked often, until I moved to Europe. When I decided to study abroad, I went from the weekly conversation to daily conversations overnight. Literally, overnight. I was alone in a new country and busy city, surrounded by a language I did not speak, and all the confidence I had built up went out the door. From 10 hours away (well, roughly 30 if you count layovers and total travel time), my parents helped me get back on my feet and become a world traveler the same way they had sent me to college - by letting me know that everything will work out in the end and that even from a distance, I'll always have them. The point I am trying to make is, the more distance and decision-making responsibility you give your student, the more they will realize that they still need a mentor, and luckily that is you, parents and familes! College friends are great, but having somebody who has been around the block (cough cough, parents or families), is a valuable asset that we sometimes do not realize we still need.|
|How I rekindled communication with my parents will not necessarily work for all students, and that is perfectly fine. The important fact is that parents and family members should let their students try to become independent adults before insisting on a loving, long conversation in the middle of a chaotic, college life. Recognizing and accepting that your student is becoming an adult is the first step, but now you are faced with trying to treat them as both a child (which we are at times) and an adult (which we also see ourselves as), which is not easy for either of us! How can you help both their and your transition, specifically regarding communication? Here are a few conversation starter suggestions:|
|Step 1: Email them. Students are expected to check their student email every day, so if you send your student a quick note they are probably going to see it! Emails do not need to be formal, as we usually perceive them to be, but can be anything from, "I hope your day is going well. Love you." to "I transferred money into your account." I will say as college students, we prefer the latter email suggestion.|
|Step 2: Text them. I do not mean text them every day, maybe not even every week. I know you miss your students and they probably miss you too, but unless you are asking a question, do not get your hopes up for a rapid response back. If I am being honest, you know that we have our phone in our hands 95% of the time; however, as students, we prefer what is tangible and immediately available to us - being at school that includes textbooks, the gym, friends, Netflix or other time passing activities, and sadly not always our family, that is anywhere from an hour to a few days away. Even students that commute from home have college lives, so some physical and emotional separation from them is equally expected. Disclaimer: This is not always the case as some students are significantly better at keeping in touch than others.|
|Step 3: Care packages. Speaking of what is tangible, a care package will definitely get you a response. If you have the time and resources to send one, a few suggestions would be their favorite foods, homemade goodies (like brownies - thanks mom), clothes they left at home, an amazon gift card, and maybe even school supplies, since we are full time students here. If a care package is not an option for you, a card will do the trick just as easily. Snail mail shows that you care and miss your students, more than reaching out over electronics ever will.|
|Step 4: Call them. In this day and age, phone calls seem to be for emergencies only. If you immediately need to get in contact with your student, send a text first to see if they are available at the moment, and then call. Your student will probably not answer the call (do not take it personally), so leave a voicemail. After your student has listened to your voicemail, they will probably text you back rather than calling you back. I apologize on behalf of our generation, but most of us just do not use phones as an actual phone anymore.|
|As a parent or family member of a returning student, you have probably tried a few, if not all of these options, and as a parent or family member of a new student, you have a few years to get creative with your long distance parent/family-child-adult relationship. If none of those four options get you a text back, a singing and dancing telegram will do the trick as a last resort! I am only joking, but hopefully you now have a little more insight into the mind of a college student. Remember, even if communication has digressed slightly during the first year of college, it just means that there is more room for improvement!|
We'd love to hear from you! If you have any questions or would like to provide suggestions on how we can better meet your needs, as a parent and family member, please contact us at: 209-946-7619 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Linda Dempsey, Director
New Student & Family Programs