Talking with Your Child
- Before our son left for college we agreed that we would talk by phone once a week at a designated time. He called as agreed for the first few weeks and then he began missing the calls. Each time he had an excuse. He fell asleep, he forgot, he lost his cell phone, the list went on. We were deeply concerned and we tried to get him to call us to no avail. How do you motivate your child to call when he is not responsive?
Many young adults test the boundaries and the communications expectations of parents when they arrive at college. If you find your student missing planned calls, have a conversation about what would be a reasonable schedule of communication. It’s best if you can have this conversation in person. Though, whether by phone or in person, let the student guide the decision about what is workable in terms of timing and frequency of communication. In respecting their growing independence, you have a better chance of commitment to the new schedule. The transition to college is a change for parents as well as student, and parents must also compromise in some ways.
However, while some communication struggles are simply an issue of boundaries, you might be noticing a more fundamental shift in your child’s behavior. Parents are often the best to gauge genuine changes in a son or daughter. Therefore, if there are serious concerns or lack of enough information to determine if your student is healthy, ask them to provide you with the “need to know” information: “I just need to know that you are doing okay” or “please let us know that you are attending class” or “we want to be sure that you are still able to balance your medication with your schedule on campus” or “if I just got a short e-mail once a week it could let me know you are doing okay”.
If you still aren’t getting a response, the next option is to find out what mechanisms are in place at the institution to follow up with students – even if they don’t report back to parents, many institutions will at least do a double check to determine that a student is making adequate progress and is safe. If that is a genuine concern, parents should find out how that process works at your specific college.
Answer courtesy of Jan Walbert, Vice President for Student Affairs, Arcadia University