Fall break just ended and your freshman decided to go on a trip rather than spend the time at home with you. Phone calls are few and far between, and you’ve resorted to stalking your child’s Instagram feed and sending texts that don’t get answered.
So what do you do when your college student doesn’t seem to miss you? Here are a few reasons why it’s not the end of the world.
1. Independence is the goal.
As a parent, you’ve been preparing your child to make decisions, take responsibility and live without absolute dependence on you. Whether your student lives on campus or is commuting, you’ve probably noticed him or her exercising a little more independence lately. That may feel like distance sometimes, especially when it means your student isn’t answering your calls or texting every day. Take a deep breath and know that it’s normal. You’re still the parent and your child is still the child, but let him or her have a little space to develop and grow, even if it’s a little uncomfortable for you.
2. College life is busy.
Don’t assume the reason your student isn’t communicating is because he or she doesn’t want to. The transition from high school student to college student is difficult, and your student is juggling classes, tests, homework, extracurricular activities, friendships, intramurals and more. A daily call recounting the day’s events may not be possible in an already crowded schedule. Seek out intentional ways you can support your child as he or she navigates this first semester and set specific times when you can get together or chat and learn all about what’s going on in his or her life. Just don’t expect those to happen every day!
3. Try not to assign motives to your child’s lack of communication.
A freshman—or any age college student—can go radio silent for a variety of reasons. Try not to automatically assume that he or she doesn’t miss you, is ungrateful or is avoiding your calls. He or she may simply be busy or classes could be overwhelming. Maybe your student is homesick and calls home make it worse. The point? Don’t jump to the worst-case scenario immediately. It may just be that your child is having a wonderful experience. Continue to check in with your student, but don’t be controlling. If you’re concerned that something is wrong, make an effort to visit. You can often tell more when you see your child face to face. Be aware of services the University offers, from counseling to tutoring and everything in between.
4. Giving your student space doesn’t mean letting go.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with feeling sad that you don’t see your child every day or that the relationship has changed with his or her growing independence. While finding ways to spend time with your student may not be as easy as they used to be, you shouldn’t just step out of his or her life either. Your student still needs you. Be available and present. Take advantage of built-in times to visit, like Homecoming or other special campus events, and strive to find a consistent time to talk. Know the basic schedule of the semester and be prepared to help your child walk through the stress of midterms and finals.
5. Send mail!
Maybe your student doesn’t call or visit as much as you’d like, but he or she is sure to appreciate a few well-timed letters, cards and care packages throughout the semester. A note with some of your student’s favorite snacks or a simple card is sure to brighten his or her day. And who knows, it might prompt a call home!