How to Communicate wth a College Student

Posted on December 15th, 2015

Now that Junior is away at college (and I use the term “away” loosely, since he’s seriously 30 minutes from us), I’ve learned that one of the most important things you can do when your child leaves for college is keep the lines of communication open. Of course, the way you communicate has changed. Gone are the days of asking, “how was your day?” after school or practice. Instead, we have to rely on the phone.

This is not as easy as it sounds. There are many reasons why, but these are my top 7.

  1. Your child will not answer the phone when you call. This is not because they hate you. It is because in college, students cannot answer the phone in front of their peers for fear they will be ridiculed for actually talking to a parental figure. So you will need to text. That way if anyone asks, your child can say he’s talking to a hottie he met in English class instead of his mother who is having a hot flash.
  2. All this texting does not mean your child has lost the ability to speak. Now that he or she is attending an institution of higher learning, they are learning to think “critically,” which consists of critiquing every decision their parents have made for the past 20 years.  So every time you see your child, they will speak to you about those decisions. Endlessly. Until your head explodes.
  3. Most texts will involve questions. These questions can range from “is it OK to wash all my clothes in one load” to “what is the password for Netflix?” Keep in mind that your child is now learning to critically think, so any answer you give will be wrong. Including the passwords.
  4. Your child has completely lost the ability to spell the word “you,” despite stellar SAT scores. In all instances, should you be lucky enough to receive a text, “you” will be written as “u.” Because using the other two letters is just so 2002.
  5. It will also be very time consuming for your child to text you long phrases, such as “right now.” Instead they will text, “in class rn.” This does not mean they have changed their major to nursing. Instead it means that they can only communicate using their thumbs and “right now” is just to exhausting for them to type it out. Sadly, many parents of college students have lost both their ability to see up close without glasses and their glasses. So you will spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out if “rn” is “m” or “nn” or an autocorrect gone bad.
  6. The most popular form of communication between college student and parent is a request for money. These are usually urgent, as in “I’m in Target rn and my debit card was rejected. Please transfer $40 so I can buy ramen.” This will be followed two seconds later by “OMG, MOM. I need $40. The line is backing up behind me.”
  7. Do not confuse their urgent requests for being the same as yours. While an urgent funds transfer is a very real emergency for them, texting you their flight number the day they leave to come home is not urgent to them. Until the flight lands and they are standing around the airport texting “Where are u? I’m at airport rn.”
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