Love, Mom and Dad: Letters from Home

One of the biggest surprises to me, as a newly minted parent of a college student, came when my freshman son told me he was disappointed that he never receives mail at school. Other than when he drove over the mailbox at home, I never thought he was actually aware there were things like mail delivery and written letters with stamps.

Mail was the lifeline when I, and maybe you, were in college. The anticipation and trip to the campus post office was the day’s highlight. Letters from home, cards from your girlfriend or boyfriend, the club newsletter, a goodies package, or maybe a score of some cash from Granny. Surprisingly, it hasn’t completely changed. Even though technology enables ongoing and instantaneous contact, there is still something special about a letter or package from home that helps to maintain a connection unachievable with an email, text message or even Skype.

Letters from home, with love, from parents to their college kids.

So, we got into a routine of sending him something regularly to find in the mailbox. He rarely acknowledged receipt, though sometimes would have a follow-up inquiry, usually about the dog. But when we picked him up after his first year, he had a neatly organized box with all the cards and letters we sent.

Setting this schedule of sending things to your student is a good way to maintain a connection and ease their (and your) transition from home. Investment of personal time to compose a note, pack a box or select a card is just another way to let them know you are lovingly keeping them in your thoughts, while not being in their face. And, just as in our college days, the ways to do this haven’t changed too much.

Write that letter. (Did you know that a stamp now costs .49 cents? Shocking. At least there is no longer a need to lick them). You may be surprised, but they actually could be wondering what is going on at home. Since we Skyped with my son at least once a week, I quickly discovered that I ran out of things to say in a letter. So, I looked for alternatives.

Sending a card is something you may reserve for special occasions, but the “I’m proud of you,” “hang in there”, “thinking of you”; encouragement in a card or note goes long way to provide a therapeutic effect, especially if things are stressful. Nothing spells love to a teenager like money, and including some cold hard cash is a more emotional communication than impersonally adding of funds to the debit card.

A postcard is quick and easy to send. It’s sneaky, but a good way to get a response, especially if yours is like mine and unlikely to respond to other types of items. If you go somewhere nice avoid the temptation to say ‘having fun, now that you aren’t here’, but be sure to make it certain by the postcard picture that you are having some fun, too. That will surely elicit a comment. Also, stamps for postcards only cost .35 cents (a nice savings over the letter for those of us scrimping to pay for college).

It is no surprise that a care package from home is always appreciated. Any homemade goodies or a gift box of their favs’ is a hit. Be sure to include enough for them to share with roommates and friends – as group sharing can aid to the social experience. It is easy to collect up things they like and make up a gift box. But, to keep things varied, locate a local delivery or website and have your students favorite treats sent to them. Your campus has probably sent you marketeria for occasional gift baskets and the like through campus affiliates; however, there is no shortage of sites to do one time sends, or even subscriptions for foods or other gifts. Here are some sites that I have used:

Beyond Bookmarks. This site has healthy snacks, including gluten-free and organic items. They also have some add-ins that you can use to customize the basket. For kicks, add the febreze. I find it quite funny, and who knows, maybe their roommate will appreciate it?

UTZ Snacks. My son loves his chips, and this site has it all.

Insomnia cookies. Fresh baked cookies, and brownies and ice cream, oh my. Open to the early hours of the AM and delivered to the dorm in 30 minutes. Can’t beat it.

Harry and David. Odds are you usually go to this old standby for that holiday something for your hard-to-shop-for Aunt Martha. Or, it is what you get from your boss instead of that holiday bonus? Nevertheless, they have varieties of fruits and nuts and cheeses, delivered fresh. Shipping can be a bit high (watch for this on other sites as well), but the quality speaks for itself.



About Pete Tropf

Pete Tropf is an IT executive in the Washington D.C. area. For the past ten years, he has been working at The College Board as Vice President of Shared Services. A graduate of James Madison University, he is the father of three college aged students. Now an empty nester with some free time on his hands, he has recently started posting on familiar topics, Information Technology and kids in college. He is also a Washington Nationals fan, and enjoys attending the games with his wife Sharon.

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