Keeping your parents in the loop
I’m betting that college students fifty years ago did not have to deal with helicopter parents. How could they? Once you left for college, they couldn’t simply call you on your cell phone, stalk you on Facebook or send you text messages at all hours of the night. The only form of communication was good old snail mail or calling the public phone line. If someone was already on the phone, your parents would get a busy signal and have to try again later. After a few days, I’m betting most parents would give up and wait for their kid to call, but that doesn’t work anymore, thanks to technology. Now, you have to at least give the appearance that you are trying to keep your parents in the loop.
I know that sending off a child to college is an emotional rollercoaster for many parents, but it’s hard for kids to stand on their own if mommy and daddy are constantly checking in on them. Unfortunately, the more distance you create between your parents tends to make them hold on even tighter. It can be difficult to create a healthy balance between letting your parents participate in your life and creating your own personal space, but following these simple tips may help keep your parents from crossing the line.
1. Set a Schedule
Before you leave for school, talk to your parents about your expectations for communicating with them. Some students are more attached than others, so if you feel like you need a bi-weekly chat with your mom or dad, by all means let them know. If, however, you are more independent, set a specific time and day each week (or bi-monthly) when you know you’ll have the time to catch up. Sunday tends to be a slow day for many students, so scheduling something early in the evening might work for you. If your parents live in another time zone, keep this in mind when setting up dates, as you could be interfering with their dinner or bedtime. Don’t limit your conversations to the phone. Mix things up by using Google Hangouts or Skype. If your computer doesn’t have a camera built into it, you can pick up a webcam for under $20. With parents, seeing is believing, so giving them a little face time can really help them deal with the separation.
2. Use Social Media
Sometimes, a simple message on Facebook or quick tweet is all your parents need; you don’t need to spend hours on the phone with them, providing every detail of your past week to keep them happy. Simply drop them a quick, ‘Had a great week. Thinking of you!’ and they will be overjoyed. If you are hanging out on Facebook and notice your mom is online, send her an instant message (IM). If she gets too chatty, tell her you are late for a study session and log off. Of course, if you never studied before, this may seem like an obvious lie and you’ll need to come up with a better excuse to end the conversation. If you are stuck in a boring lecture, shoot your parents a quick text message letting them know how much you are learning at college; it will help pass the time and make them happy. Just be sure your professor is not watching you! Another great way to keep your parents in the loop is through Pinterest. Create a board just for them and frequently post pictures from around campus. You can include photos of the cafeteria food (great way to get mom to send a care package), your room, friends, and even graded papers or tests. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so that should keep them happy for quite some time.
3. Step Back in Time
Writing a letter and sending it through the mail may seem like an ancient form of communication, but you might be surprised at how much your parents would appreciate having something tangible to read. Even if it’s just a few lines, they’ll know you took the time to sit down and write it, showing them that you are thinking of them even though they are miles away. Who knows? They may even return the favor and surprise you with something in the mail. Nothing is more fun than getting a care package filled with your favorite goodies when you least expect it!
Don’t forget to discuss lapses in communication, too. As finals get closer, your time will be consumed with studying and other demands, so it may not be feasible to maintain your regular communication schedule. The same may be true for breaks, when you head off with friends or trips abroad. Let your parents know how long they should go without hearing from you before they should start to worry, and be sure to give them an emergency number to call, just in case they can’t reach you by phone. Keeping your parents informed and part of your new life may be frustrating at times, but remember this - a little goes a long way.