Here’s What’s Wrong With Calling Your College Kid

To phone or not to phone? Here’s why one college student thinks parents should think twice before calling their college kid.

I may be a tech-savvy college student with a smart phone that never leaves my side but I don’t talk to my parents all that often. Thanks to technology, it’s fairly easy for parents and their college kids to keep in touch via texting, FaceTime, phone calls, Skype, Facebook, or any combination. However, I’d be willing to bet every cent in my bank account (which is not a lot) that you talk to your college student more than you ever did with your own parents when you were in college. Unfortunately, I’m not sure this is a good thing.

Why parents should think twice before calling their college student.

Before anyone accuses me of being ungrateful for not wanting to talk to my parents, (I promise, that’s not the case), let me paint you a picture of my first semester of college.

First, I know for a fact that without my parents I wouldn’t be where I am in school right now. My mom put as much, if not more, effort into my college application process than I did. She signed me up for college essay clinics, made sure I was registered in time for SATs and ACTs, and encouraged me to get more involved in high school activities and keep my grades up. My dad, who’s a phenomenal writer, helped me edit my essays. He read countless revisions of nearly identical drafts, over and over again. He also works hard every day so that I can enjoy my time in college and focus on classes without student debt hanging over my head.

When I started getting acceptance letters, Mom and Dad were by my side sharing in my joy and excitement. Basically, my parents were extremely invested in my college experience. When they dropped me off on move in day, it was only natural for them to want to check in on me in the upcoming weeks and hear about all the things I was up to.

[More about college move-in day here.]

However, frequent calling felt a bit smothering to me. Let me explain.

Those first few months of college were unlike any other time in my life. I was having a blast meeting kids on my hall, checking out clubs and organizations I wanted to join, attending classes, and checking out the social scene. In what little free time I did have, I was figuring out how to “be” an adult. I had to navigate busy dining halls to find food during the lunch rush, and figure out which bus routes would take me to the grocery store, dorms, or library. I needed to find my classes and keep up with the enormous workload I was receiving. I had to do my laundry, find time to exercise, and attend endless meetings. Oh, and what was my new email log in again?

Honestly, my whole first year of college felt like this. It was the best year of my life. Everything was new and exciting, and there was always something keeping me busy.

So let me circle back around to keeping in touch with mom and dad. I did call my parents, just not as often as they would have liked. I was busy figuring out my new life. Sometimes when they’d call, I’d be in the library studying, out with friends, or simply tired after a long day and I just wouldn’t be up for recounting the activities of my past few days.

[More about how to stay close to your family as you grow apart here.]

A year removed from that first semester of college, I know this may make me seem selfish and ungrateful. But let me reiterate: the fact that I didn’t call my parents often wasn’t a bad thing.

To explain this another way, let me tell you about my freshman year roommate. She had a much harder time adjusting to college than I did. During the first month of school it wasn’t uncommon for me to get back to our room at the end of the day and find her crying on the phone or on Skype with her parents. She missed home. Her classes stressed her out. She wasn’t happy. I did my best to comfort her and extend invitations for dinner or library sessions, but in the back of my mind I was genuinely perplexed at how she could miss home so much when we had this brand new world to explore.

My roomie needed her parents at the time, and that’s okay. If you and your college kid do talk every day, that’s not a bad thing either. You guys are there for us to lean on and it’s one of the many reasons why we love you.

But in the grand scheme of things, constant communication is probably the easiest way to push your child away. When you give us some space, it makes the calls we do have that much more meaningful for both of us. I find myself more excited to fill you in on the big things I’m doing, tell you funny stories about my friends, or complain about my mean professor.

This year my parents let me decide when to call. That way I can set aside time to devote myself to the conversation instead of trying to squeeze it in between classes or when I’m exhausted after a long day. It works for both of us and I find myself dialing home every two to three days, much more often than I did last year.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that you shouldn’t worry if your kid doesn’t call as often as you’d like. It’s okay. Give them some space to adjust to their busy new life, and trust in how you raised them to know that they’re out there doing good things and becoming the person they’ve always wanted to be.


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Photo credit (above): Michele Ursino

About Kaleigh Watson

Kaleigh Watson is a graduate of the University of Virginia, and majored in media studies. She was busy with her sorority, competed with the club snowboard team, and tutored kids in Spanish.

Read more posts by Kaleigh

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