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The car is packed with everything but the kitchen sink – clothes, linens, desk supplies, even a mini-refrigerator – and your child is heading off to college.
As you check items off the list, don’t forget the most important of all: a plan to stay connected.
On Their Schedules, Not Yours
Your college student is going to be busy with studies, so you’ll need to resist the temptation to call whenever you are thinking of them (which of course will be often). Abide by a weekly phone call, setting a day and hour when your student will likely have some downtime. Better yet, make it a video call with Skype, a free software application that uses a computer monitor’s built-in camera (most have them now) to allow callers to see each other on the screen while talking.
“Skype has really helped fill a huge void now that both of our kids are in college,” says Lynn Repstad, El Dorado Hills parent of two San Diego-area university students. The family looks forward to a Skype video call each Sunday. “We do a three-way conference call with Tyler and Tori, and the screen is split so we can see the two of them at once. It’s like having them both right in the room. I pan the camera around so they can say hi to the dog or show them what we’re having for dinner!” explains Repstad, who oversees communications for the Montano De El Dorado Shopping Plaza.
While some anxious parents send their child across the states, others try to remain cool, calm and collected as their teen travels across the world.
When their daughter Jessica was accepted as a Rotary Youth Exchange student in Italy, Steve and Terri Price were elated. A student at Vista del Lago High School, Jessica will spend her junior year living and learning the Italian culture.
To prepare Jessica – and themselves – for a 10-month experience away from home, the family armed her with a cell phone, a new computer with Skype and a Facebook account. “Having Jessica only a click or a dial away makes the unknown a little less emotional,” says Terri, a senior manager at DMV’s corporate headquarters. She and Steve acknowledge that while they are grateful for today’s technological devices, they don’t want to be “too electronically connected” to Jessica, to ensure that she has the best exchange possible.
Kelly Richardson, a Folsom-based psychotherapist specializing in teenagers and young adults, notes that there is also value in staying connected with your faraway student by traditional mail. “A simple card or a small care package will strengthen the emotional connection,” she suggests.
Richardson encourages parents to be consistent. “Even the teen who is fiercely independent appreciates thoughtful communication from [home] when they are away...a photo of the family pet and a bag of chocolate kisses will work wonders,” she says.
Text messaging also has its advantages. As Lynn Repstad describes, texting comes in handy when your child has an urgent message for you. “I’ve received texts that say ‘Mom, I need money!” she says. “But my favorite is ‘Mom, I love you.’”
Most important is maintaining a healthy relationship with your student, and Michele Dickey of Folsom Family Counseling says, “Whether you communicate via Skype, email or phone, remember that it is the quality of communication that determines how well you stay connected. Make it a point to communicate your love and support through praise, encouragement and listening, without criticism or judgment.”