Although your college age child may be grown up and no longer living at home, it’s still possible to maintain that emotional connection you’ve likely been working on for years. But with the new distance and living situation, parents and young adults alike sometimes have a difficult time navigating this transition in their relationship. How can you two be close when things have changed so much? Here are some strategies to stay connected with your college age son or daughter:
1) No Such Thing as “Normal,” Only What Works
Every family culture is unique in how each member is differentiated, or separate but simultaneously connected. Some like to talk and be together very often, while others are more comfortable being independent. So when it comes to communication between parents and their adult children, there is no real standard of how much you should be talking or emailing; just do what’s best for the relationship.
2) Understand The Stage of Life
At this point in your child’s life, he/she needs and deserves autonomy and privacy. This is a time for a young adult to figure out his/her direction, values, and beliefs, but this critical process can be stunted with too much parental input. You simply cannot parent a 22-year old the same as you do a 12-year old. It’s not appropriate for you to be checking in all the time. Though it can be difficult, learn to learn to give up some of the control and say you once had.
3) Let Your Child Lead
When it comes to contact (phone calls, emails, social media interactions), let your child initiate. If he/she is really wanting or needing to speak with you, then it will happen! Pay attention to cues that can signal to you how frequently you should keep in touch. Remember that the communication you have with your college age kid should be about supporting him/ her, not about easing your own parental anxiety. If a long period of time has passed without any contact, then go ahead and call, but otherwise try to let your child take the lead.
4) Ask Open-Ended Questions
In an attempt to be close, parents sometimes ask questions like, “how was your day?” or “are you enjoying your classes?” Try instead to pose your questions in a way that promotes conversation (instead of inadvertently shutting it down). For example, “tell me about your favorite course so far,” or “what are some of the things you’ve learned?” can invite deep discussion.
5) Focus on the Relationship
This can be a very exciting time, as your child is becoming the person he/she is going to be! Trust the work and investment that you’ve put it in through the years, and then let your child pull back and live more independently; your kid isn’t a kid anymore, but is instead the boss of him/herself. The relationship will naturally transition to one of a more mature tone.