Tips for parenting your college freshman

For many parents, moving their college freshman into the dorm — whether in town or states away — is an unnerving feeling. College is a time of transition when adolescents grow into adults and parents continue to struggle with how much oversight is appropriate. It’s not surprising that parents worry about how often and when they should contact their college student. Calling too much may be perceived as intrusive or annoying and calling too little might be perceived as disinterested or uninvolved. Many parents may also fear that not calling their college student enough might result in a lack of oversight that leads to problems in school.

Every child is different and has different needs and it would be difficult to make a “one size fits all” recommendation regarding how often a parent should communicate with their child. Every parent will develop a feel for this based on their child’s personal situation and how their child responds to phone calls and other forms of communication.

One of the most important things is to recognize that our children may wish to communicate with us in specific ways. For some children, email or text messaging may be preferred as a quick way of communication. For others, phone contact is desired because it allows for more interaction and better exchanges. 

Parenting a college studentAs with all things, communicating with your child about how they would like to be contacted and how often can help smooth the transition. Doing so sends the message that you view your child as an adult and don’t want to be intrusive, but you hope to be supportive and helpful.

In situations where parents become fearful because they have not heard from their child, it’s always important to discuss the situation with others before jumping to conclusions. College is a busy time and is very demanding academically and socially and many students may not always be as responsive as they intend to be or as you would like.

In the end, college is a “rite of passage” for students and a life transition for parents. No transition in life is ever easy, but time, careful discussion, and experience can help make this one positive for all.

About Matthew Macaluso, DO

I am an assistant professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, medical director of Via Christi Psychiatric Clinic in Wichita, Kan. and associate director of residency training for the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita.
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