Staying in Touch With College Students

When children head off to college how much contact should parents have with them?

This question has generated a lot of angst over the years and maybe it’s because nobody knows how much communication is appropriate. Is one call a week enough? How about a dozen? Do text messages and E-mails count? And what about Skype, instant messaging, Google Voice and Facebook?

Obviously, there is no right answer. Even in the same household, kids and parents are going to keep in touch differently.

In my family, for instance, my daughter, who is a college senior, typically calls about five to six times a week. When I turn my computer on in the morning, I often see a cheery E-mail from her. Caitlin manages to keep in touch even though she’s got daily practices on her varsity soccer team, an internship, a job in the marketing department of  her college and a side business selling her own picture frames. Caitlin is doing all this while she’s carrying a full load as a Spanish major.

My son, who is a college freshman, calls about once a week. It’s a cause for celebration if the conversation lasts more than 10 minutes. My husband and I were shocked recently when my son called via Skype and talked to us for almost an hour.

For those who are wondering what’s the right amount of contact with their college students—and why it matters—two experts have weighed in with a new book, The iConnected Parent: Staying Close to Your Kids in College (and Beyond) While Letting Them Grow Up. The authors are Barbara K. Hofer, a psychology professor at Middlebury College, and Abigail Sullivan Moore, a New York Times contributor.

In my next post, I’m going to share what some of the authors’ advice is for parents wanting to stay in touch with their college students.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she also writes a college blog for CBSMoneyWatch.com and US News.

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