Michael Kuna, MD
Genesis Clinical Services
I believe that the concerns that you raise apply not only to students who are matriculating to college, but to any boarding school. How do we parents deal with the transition of our children from living at home, to living away? Of course, each child is different; some are more willing to have regular contact with their parents, and some are less willing.
The good news is that your child has already been living more independently than you may think, as he has gone through the natural progression from elementary school through high school. Don’t forget that you have been teaching him life-skills and he has also been learning from your example all of those years. He is not as naïve as you may believe.
It is not uncommon for emerging adults to have less contact with their parents, but I feel that it is reasonable to expect at least a weekly check in with mom and dad. Real phone calls can often a yield a lot more information than an “I’m OK” text message. If you keep the phone calls short and arrange to have them at a time that is convenient for your student, he’ll likely agree. Listen to how he sounds on the phone. It is OK to ask questions, but interrogations will likely shut down the conversation.
You can check other indicators to see how you son is doing. Are his grades up to his normal standard? Does he sound like his old self, or does he sound anxious and depressed? It is normal to be a little homesick during the first weeks of starting a new school, but more extreme feelings should raise your concern.
Reading the school’s on-line newspaper can give you a sense of life on campus, and you can even subscribe to the town’s paper to feel more connected to local happenings.
Your child may try new behaviors along with his new independence. Remember that this is normal, as long his actions are within the norms of his peers. Please don’t forget that the university’s staff works hard to help students with this important transition.
If you convey to your son unconditional love and support it is more likely that he will be more open and honest with you. If you try to control all of his actions, he’ll likely shut down. Shipments of chocolate cookies and funny cards can also keep those phone calls coming!