September — Communicating with your College Student
Now that you've dropped off your son or daughter, you may be feeling bereft of text messages or e-mails from your student. Here are a few tips and points to consider as you determine how to maintain strong and healthy communication:
What's the best way to communicate?
Students today have a wide variety of communication devices at their disposal, many of which you may use as well.
The easiest and most used method today is the cell phone. The question is though, will you text or call, or does it depend on the message? A nice touch — have your son or daughter upload your photo or assign a special ring tone to alert them to your call. You can do the same for them.
This is probably the second most common way students communicate. Your student has an active Binghamton e-mail account and that's a great place to send messages or electronic greeting cards. If your student has more than one e-mail account, encourage them to forward their personal account (i.e. gmail, yahoo, etc.) to their University account so they don't miss any important messages.
Do you have a Facebook page? If not, it's something you can consider. But talk to your student and see if this would work for them too — some may prefer to keep this tool for communicating with their peers only. But if they are willing to add you as a "friend," there are a number of communication tools and applications you can use, including instant messenger. It's also a great way to see photos of your son or daughter with their friends, and to share photos from home with them as well.
IM (instant messenger)
IM is offered through a number of sites and is a great way to chat in real-time. When you log on, you'll be able to see if your student is logged on as well before you attempt to reach them.
VIDEO CONFERENCING (Skype, Google Talk, FaceTime)
Many students are coming to campus with cameras on their computers. If your student and you both have one, it could be a great way to connect "face to face." With free and paid versions available for both Mac OS and Windows, video conferencing provides a great way to experience real face time with your student!
Also known as "real mail" from the post office. While this generation is known for its electronic communication, there's still nothing like getting a sweet treat or a couple of bucks in your mailbox. Just be sure to let your student know to check their mailbox, as many students don't routinely do so.
How often should you communicate?
At first, most students will communicate about as often as they did prior to college — several times a day, usually through text. They'll text you about every new experience or development: their first class, first trip off-campus, what they had for lunch, clubs they joined, etc. After the first few weeks, you may notice that your student has started to slow down on the rate of communication, and if they haven't, you may want to encourage them to do so. Make sure you set a regular time to touch base, maybe Sunday evening or after their toughest class. It can be easy for students to get swept up in their studies, clubs and hanging out with friends. Avoid feeling left out by setting a time when you and your student will both be free to chat.
Tips for communicating with your college student:
Take time to really listen to what your student is saying. Use active and reflective listening techniques such as, "It sounds like you're saying chemistry is much harder than you expected after doing so well in high school." If they confirm your understanding, ask an open-ended question like, "What resources does Binghamton have to help you adjust to the work load?"
Ask questions you can follow up on later and, if you need to, write the answers down: what classes are they taking, what assignments and projects are they working on, who are their favorite or least favorite professors, what activities have they attended in the residence halls, etc. You'll get more from asking, "What did you end up writing about for your English paper?" rather than, "how are classes going?"
Remember that with today's technology, communication occurs faster and you are often hearing the "raw emotion." Did your student just have a major fight with his or her roommate? Instead of jumping to action and calling the Resident Director, encourage your student to take some time to think about the fight, or suggest cooling-off strategies. When you talk again, you'll often find they've handled the problem themselves or it was just an emotional response and they're "over it." If they still have a concern, taking a little bit of time will put you and your student in a less emotional place to think about strategies and resources to cope with the issue.
Always tell your student you love them and are proud of their efforts. Don't underestimate the power of recognizing even small achievements like getting an "A" on their first college paper. Students really appreciate small gestures when they're away from home.
Send your son or daughter reminders of home: newspaper clippings of their high school team, the high school Homecoming schedule, etc. Food is always appreciated — like your famous homemade cookies they love, as will everyone else on the floor, so be sure to make lots!