compare notes: how much contact with your college student?

<p>Hello, parents.</p>

<p>I dropped my eldest daughter off at college a couple of days ago. I had basically decided that it would be healthiest for her if I now take quite a few steps back; that she will need to establish her own study/sleep/social patterns and rhythms. I thought that, especially in the first few weeks, she needs to settle in without input and questions and check-ins from me; that she would call me when she wanted to, without any pressure from me.</p>

<p>A little background: I've been an involved parent, but not (I think) a "helicopter"; we were, to some degree, collaborators in her college application process. I saw myself as her "assistant": I helped her to research colleges, set up the visit schedules in consultation with her, checked and commiserated with her - when invited - on her essays and general application details, had a lot of discussions about the various schools, sometimes - although rarely - bugged her about completing applications. I think that, for us, the process was a bonding experience. Getting into what she perceived as a good and inspiring college became important to her, and she did what was necessary to do so. (Now, she's a bit worried that it will be too difficult - but I have told her that that is a typical worry for ingoing Freshmen.) </p>

<p>Re her high school studies: after being a very bright but scattered Freshman and Sophomore, she became a focused and committed Junior and Senior. She writes very well, and this is her main interest. My concerns are that she can be perfectionist to the point that she rejects many v/ good drafts, and then finds herself near deadlines with less time than necessary to complete a fully drafted paper.......although she got much better at this process in her senior year, and turned in completed and usually A+ papers. She attended a Waldorf high school that, while espousing high ideals, provided little direction, so she had to become self-directed.........which she did, although with some help from me. </p>

<p>So, what I'm attempting to describe is that her study habits probably will need quite a bit of fine-tuning to become efficient. Although I've worried about this, I realized that this is an issue that she will have to work on and resolve on her own, in her first semester in college.</p>

<p>I have given her a print-out from the "help" center of her college that details the services available to help students if they are struggling with study habits, and etc. Although she is very reticent about asking for help, I hope that she will avail herself of it if help is needed; I know that I can't watch over her in this: that she will need to do some amount of sinking or swimming.</p>

<p>So, I had resolved that I would be hands off, and have my daughter have the opportunity to establish her own way (although I would jump in and offer her help if something seemed to indicate that she was in over her head). Then, last night I read an excerpt of a study of parental involvement continuing into the college years. Its inferred results were that students with parents who remained extremely involved - both in speaking with their kids many times per week, and in actually speaking with school personnel often (which never occurred to me, unless my child had a really big problem) - were the students who expressed that their college experience was an intellectually expansive and satisfying one. (At the same time, higher grades were recorded for the students with less parental involvement......too long to explain; here is the link: <a href="http://cpr.iub.edu/uploads/AIR%202009%20Impact%20of%20Helicopter%20Parents.pdf%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://cpr.iub.edu/uploads/AIR%202009%20Impact%20of%20Helicopter%20Parents.pdf&lt;/a> ) Reading this article has made me wonder if I need to rethink how I'm seeing what would be healthy for my daughter, in terms of level of involvement. </p>

<p>I think that I can see where my anxieties are my own, separate from my daughter, and so to be dealt with solely by myself. This resolve was sorely tested yesterday, when I drove up to deposit her bike (the school is only 45 minutes away): I spoke with her for a few minutes, gave her a big hug, kept it light and brief. She was about to go for her first class. As I was about to drive away, she called my cell to ask me if I knew where her notebook was; I told her: in her desk drawer (she had put it there on move-in day); she couldn't find it and ended up going to class with a few sheets of paper torn from her roommate's notebook. I took a deep breath and drove away. I told myself: she Is scattered, but she will have to find her own way with this. But, I couldn't shake the worry that came up. I was dying to call her to ask her how her first class had gone, what assignment she got, and etc. I restrained myself. But, I went to sleep last night and woke up this morning thinking about it; to the point where I started in on my own work a bit late.</p>

<p>It has typically been my way, when faced with a problem or concern, to read up and rethink, and to reality-check when possible. So.............. I would really appreciate hearing from other parents (both of ingoing Freshmen and of more seasoned students) about your experiences and thoughts, re:
_<em>level of involvement, and what was needed, what has worked, not worked /
_</em>your children's perspective on the issue, if you know it /
_<em>what you think of the study/
_</em> and, in general (although I know that each family is different), the amount of contact you and your child are happy with</p>

<p>Thanks very much to any respondents.</p>

<p>And SORRY for the length of this entry!</p>

<p>When I was a college student, a few years ago, I knew parents who were very very involved in their students' lives. They spoke several times per day, they also IM'd with their children constantly, they read and edited their child's college papers, they were heavily involved in selecting their child's classes. Most of those kids who had very involved parents are now actually still living with the parents, even though they are college grads. </p>

<p>My point is that, as hard as it is, and as worried as I think you are, at this point you've done your job as a parent. You've worked with her, given her the information, prepared her for this, and now it's really up to her. Yes, she will probably stumble at first, but eventually she'll figure it out. If you try to make yourself the crutch that she leans on, she's going to keep leaning on you and never learn to lean on herself. She may ask you for help, and it's good to let her know that you'll be there, but if she doesn't learn to organize herself now and stand on her own two feet now, when is she supposed to learn that? In her 20s? 30s? 40s? </p>

<p>I'm not saying it's easy. I'm a very scattered person naturally and was as a student. But being thousands of miles away from my parents during college had its advantages. I had no choice but to learn to be independent. They supported me and were there for me, but I had to manage things on my own. Ultimately, this was really good for me, because now that I'm a young professional, I have a good sense of my own abilities and my personal independence. </p>

<p>So hang in there. She'll be fine, and so will you.</p>

<p>I know the instinct well. I would encourage you to shift from coach to cheerleader, listen but try not to solve. Give her the tools to solve things that come up on her own. Giving her information on the tutoring center is a great example of this. You are no longer editing her work, you are giving her the tools to work this out herself. This is a work in progress for me as well so I certainly don't have all the answers, however I do know that as things have arisen recently I have found if I take an active listening role instead of going into full out 'parental solve the problem mode' my son will generally talk through it himself. Sometimes they just want/need a sounding board. Early on it is okay I think to make mention of the great resources on your students campus so they can better become advocates for themselves. I have been known to send links via email ;) . I will not make phone calls or do legwork for them. Hugs to you mom!</p>

<p>Mothers of Sons likely have far less contact- there have been past years' threads on this. We made weekly phone calls to keep in touch- Sunday afternoon/early evening seemed least intrusive (letting him be in charge of making the call would have meant no calls- he would conveniently forget to do so if it was up to him). Many emails went unanswered, as did cell phone voice mails (frustrating when trying to know when to arrive to pick up son for trips home, sigh). Son became more communicative as years went by. Now we can tell when he has nothing better going on- he can be downright chatty! Also tells more spontaneously than when asked about something. Skype can catch them at a good moment- on the computer istead of busy with friends. Son happy with little or no contact- we just had to live with it as there was nothing we could do about it.</p>

<p>Although it is tempting to satisfy your curiosity when school first starts you have to back off. Let your D have the experience without your knowing any details. Part of the growing up separation on her part, letting go on yours. Once per week is enough although some converse even daily! I get tidbits about years ago events, also son doesn't always realize that we know nothing about something/someone because he chose not to inform us at the time but now is willing to. </p>

<p>As I've seen in past threads problems than seem large at the moment and generate a scary comment often are resolved shortly thereafter- leaving you worrying when the student has forgotten they even mentioned the topic.</p>

<p>Emails are wonderful. One sided conversations. News about home as well as advice and helpful links to be read when convenient for the student. You can be sound asleep when s/he gets around to them- they may even reply then.</p>

<p>Don't worry about her ability to do what is needed. When she has to she will get up on time (my fear- son needed parents to respond to his loud alarm clock), she will organize as needed (horribly messy room for son in dorm and apt- his "problem", not mine). She'll get to know how things work on her campus and thrive.</p>

<p>Studies are interesting but you know your child best. </p>

<p>My very independent son would feel that we were crossing boundaries if we wanted to talk several times a week. We have a rule that if we've not heard from him in two weeks, it's time to check in with a phone call which he is very good about. He also updates his facebook page, often with pictures, every few days so that helps us feel in touch as well.</p>

<p>Set aside the study and go with what you know about your child. Trust your instinct and trust your child.</p>

<p>I was a very involved parent (in fact, my kids were homeschooled... so very involved). They will both be beginning their senior years in college this fall.</p>

<p>Wis75 is right about parents of boys. When my son left for college three years ago, we'd hear from him by phone or email every 10 days-to-2 weeks. Now it's down to once every 3-4 weeks. My husband is active on Facebook, so he "sees" him there more frequently than that.</p>

<p>My daughter will call about once a week -- although it's not unusual at certain times for a week or two to pass without her calling us or us calling her.</p>

<p>It is an odd feeling to lose that stimulus in your life and that responsibility to supervise and support that you have when they're living at home. It takes awhile before you stop feeling like you're failing them somehow, and also to know that everything will pretty much be okay without your day-to-day involvement. I think at first the kids will call and ask you "where's my notebook" because they're so used to relying on mom for that kind of help, but they figure out how to keep track of their notebook themselves pretty soon when they don't have you to make it easy for them.</p>

<p>Some things will never be done as timely and well as you'd like to see them... that's just part of the deal. ;)</p>

<p>After a while you get used to that too.</p>

<p>Every once in a while one of them will send me a paper to look over -- more along the lines of "does this thing make any sense?" rather than for editing -- and I'll read them and comment. However that happens only rarely, and I kind of like it when it does. It's always interesting to know what they're working on.</p>

<p>i talked to my parents multiple times a day the whole year (school was over 1000 miles away from home)</p>

<p>but i also developed some emotional issues that i really needed them for and it was good to know they were always willing to talk</p>

<p>they helped me do some edits on papers periodically (i've always heard it's good to have other people read over your work), but other than that were not particularly involved in the academic portion</p>

<p>so, i guess it depends on the kid. just make sure she knows that you're there if she needs you and she can call whenever if she feels it completely necessary. </p>

<p>at the same time, i'd encourage her to be as independent as she can be because otherwise it may start to interfere with her school experience</p>

<p>I think another thing to keep in mind is you can change your level of contact if you need to, it's not set in stone. So start farther in the background and see what happens. </p>

<p>Worst case scenario things don't go well first semester, then maybe increase the contact and support second semester. Barring a total meltdown (which I'm sure won't happen), she can't do too much damage to her college career in one semester, the transition can be tough for many kids, but it does have to happen and they will get through it. </p>

<p>There will be obvious points of great stress (first exams...getting back the results of said exams), as well as the novelty of being away at college gives way to the reality of the need for hard work and discipline. As long as she knows where to find you, just let this semester drive itself and see where the cards fall. Just like cooking with salt, it's always good to start with less and add more if you need to. :)</p>

<p>I've always left the degree of contact up to my son to control, so he initiates about 90% of the phone calls we have. I'd say we've talked an average of 2-3 times a week throughout his three years in college -- more if he isn't that busy, less when it's around exam/final paper time -- with probably one conversation each week lasting more than an hour. </p>

<p>I know this isn't supposed to be typical of sons, but what I can I say? He's always been chatty, and he's always gotten excited about what he's working on and learning and has wanted to talk about it. Ever since he was about 3 years old. And I love hearing his voice and his enthusiasm, so I'm not about to cut him off!</p>

<p>Last year DS called us about once a week, sometimes less (even though we had requested a Sunday Heartbeat Call). That was LOTS more than he thought necessary. And LOTS less than we would have liked... it was fun to hear about his college life. </p>

<p>"I have given her a print-out from the "help" center of her college that details the services available to help students if they are struggling with study habits, and etc." - If your D is like most teens, printouts get lost ;) But be ready to send her a link if she indicates she could use some help.</p>

<p>We left it up to our daughter but right off the bat she started calling every day. It's nice to hear from her even though our conversations are sometimes 2 minutes or less. And she e-mails if she can't call. But it was completely her decision.</p>

<p>Thanks, everyone, for your thoughtful responses! They're very helpful, and helped me calm down, by reminding me that I should continue to trust my instincts. And, that it's an evolving process.
And, I bet that my daughter has found her notebook............</p>

<p>I heard of one college that printed magnets for parents to put by their phones. The magnet read, "So what are you thinking of doing about that?" The idea is that when our child calls for advice and help, before we weigh in with the magic answer, we are supposed to let them generate a solution. This helps them become more independent. I thought this was a great idea - not that I have followed it always. On frequency of contact, research shows that most college students today talk to their parents 4-5 times a week on average.</p>

<p>Last year when my son was a college freshman, he would not commit to a standard, weekly phone call. As we said goodbye to him one last time, before heading to the airport, I had decided I would wait for him to call us. I was greatly surprised then, while we were waiting for our flight to depart, he texted me to ask me a question about something he was going to purchase online for school. I immediately thought, " he is going to contact me when he needs something!"</p>

<p>Which he does, from time to time, but not often and usually only via texts. He refuses to Skype us at all...But I started calling him once a week on late Sunday afternoons, thinking that maybe that was a "down" time in his week, and that seemed to work. If he does not answer his phone, I immediately hang up without leaving a voicemail and when he has the time, he sees the missed call and calls me back. And usually our conversations are great and we get to catch up with him and find out what he has been up to...</p>

<p>My suggestion is to follow your daughter's lead and she will tell you how much involvement she wants and needs..</p>

<p>Now my son has been home all summer and I will have to get adjusted to our once a week phone calls!</p>

<p>First few weeks of first year, D called frequently. If you plotted the data points, it would have been a fine example of exponential decay. </p>

<p>What evolved to be standard was a weekly Sunday night phone call augmented by occasional "as needed" quick chats about a specific issue, the latter usually initiated by her. She was just too !@#$%^&*! busy to talk more often than that and I respect that.</p>

<p>Such was the pattern for four years of undergrad, three years of job, and now the first weeks of graduate school.</p>

<p>My D is a rising junior. What we've settle into is: We visit via Skype once a week or so. We text or email if there's a specific question or item to discuss; sometimes several times a day, if we're discussing, say upcoming plans for break; sometimes not at all.</p>

<p>I remember in the beginning getting the advice, "Let them initiate contact." That's good advice, but it goes counter to everything we as parents feel, and wow -- it's hard for the first few weeks! It gets easier; you'll all quickly settle into a routine that works for you. Personally, it's best for us to set up a standing weekly Skype date, subject to change if we or she have something else going on that evening. That way, we don't feel neglected and she doesn't feel like we're hounding her.</p>

<p>D is a sophomore. Unless there is something urgent (or really interesting) for us to share, most of the contact from us goes through email, text or the occasional facebook chat. We skyped exactly twice last year.</p>

<p>That said, most of the contact to us comes in the form of phone calls. Usually every day, usually on the LONG (20-25 min) walk between dorm and the building where the majority of her classes are held and/or fitness center. Usually consisting of such fascinating conversation as, "I'm undecided about what to have for lunch/dinner/dessert today. Which would you choose?" Or, "I think I might take a dance class tonight with my friend because she said she'd give me a ride." In other words, usually the same sort of conversations we had when she was at home. If she had a truly difficult issue she was dealing with, she usually called while she was doing laundry because she was usually the only one there at the time & didn't have to worry about emotional meltdowns in front of her friends. And those problems usually didn't seem so devastating after a good night's sleep... and she usually called back to tell us that so we didn't worry.</p>

<p>So far, I'm finding the pattern pretty much the same this year probably because of habit. We'll see how whether it continues once classes start.</p>

<p>Once S goes off in a couple of years, I'll be surprised if we hear from him at all. I may need to join his gaming network just to know what he's up to. LOL</p>

<p>As far as the study goes, we obviously have frequent contact with D just as we did throughout high school. We have so far never needed to intervene on her behalf with any of her teachers or school administration. If there were a serious safety or academic issue which we felt needed to be addressed, we would. But everyday issues (minor room maintenance, scheduling conflicts, meal plan questions, etc.) we leave up to her. These are things she needs to learn how to do on her own, though we have helped her come up with a "script" when she wasn't sure who to ask or what to ask. This is partly because I worked at a college for several years, and we did sometimes have to deal with parents who were too involved... wanting us to tell them about grades or attendance when privacy laws prohibited disclosing that information.</p>

<p>Our daughter is a rising junior on the east coast; we (her parents) were transferred overseas just when she started her freshman year. We skype once a week on schedule, and telephone or email as needed. We're so thankful that skype was invented!</p>

<p>We call each other whenever we feel so (or email, text). I take nothing as a good sign. She or somebody else would call in case of problem. But it depends on history of relationship. We were not involved in any academics at UG level, let alone Grad. school. D. had no problem with acdemics at UG, hopefully it will continues in Med. School (just finished first month). We were very involved with D's life thru HS. We had to, she was in many EC's. Academics were up to her.
I had to find a new activity after she left, because I had a need to stay busy after work as I was always very busy with her. Maybe you need to do the same?</p>

<p>Again, thanks to everyone for your helpful responses. I've been settling down more, mostly by reminding myself of how my daughter gradually grew responsible through her high school years.........And, reminding myself to afford her the dignity of trusting who she is. That said, I know that I will be keeping my ear close to the ground for any signs that she needs parental help.
She called last night, we had a good conversation, and she seems to be doing fine (I didn't even ask her if she found her notebook!). It was great to hear from her. It is exciting to picture one's child as a young adult with the ability to self-actualize.
I'm even getting excited about the larger availability of time I'll have to work on my current art project!
Thanks again.</p>