How to Stay in Touch With Your Family in College

You may not realize it, but college is as big an adjustment for your family as it is for you. You’re the one dealing with an entirely new set of challenges, but your caregivers are adjusting to not having you around—and some caregivers handle that better than others. And sometimes it’s you who really needs a regular check-in to help manage feelings of homesickness.

With all the ways to stay in touch, some parents overdo their contact and don’t give you a chance to settle in. Others do the opposite. That’s why setting up a schedule for staying in touch benefits everyone, no matter the kind of family you have. Here are some suggestions for ways to stay connected.

Schedule Regular Calls or Visits

Feel free to call anytime to share great news or concerns, but scheduling a regular call or visit to catch up ensures you don’t go too long without checking in. It gives your parents or caregivers something to look forward to, and it will reduce the chances of them calling you every day (some parents do!). Pick a general time and day of the week and try to stick to it unless a conflict can’t be avoided.

Set Up a Family Group Chat

Maybe your mom or dad want to take charge of this, but you can do it if they don’t think of it. It works well for multiple family members in different places, and it takes the pressure off you to respond to all your parents’ texts. Family members can send light messages with photos or thoughts to the group, and if someone doesn’t have time to respond, they can chime in later.

Set Up a Virtual Family Game Night

Playing group games online can be a fun, low-stress way to connect with family that isn’t focused on grades, how you’re adjusting, or any other questions you may not always feel up for answering.

Send an Email

Email may not be your favorite way to communicate, but it can be an effective and easy way to stay in touch with your parents or grandparents since older generations tend to use email a lot.

Send a Text or WhatsApp Message

So easy and fast! You can let your mom or auntie know you finished that crazy-hard project, you made a new friend, or you are thinking about home. WhatsApp is free, so it’s great for international students or anyone who needs to be in touch to or from outside the U.S.

FaceTime or Video Chat

Even if you have a weekly call with your family, incorporating some face time with FaceTime or a Zoom call adds a special component and makes it easier for everyone to get a sense of how they are handling the transition. If your folks are too intense, however, text may be a better option.

Talk About Tracking Apps

More and more families use Life360 or other tracking apps to keep tabs on each other, sometimes for convenience and often for safety. Some caregivers, however, drift into overly controlling behavior with it, even when students are off to college, which can interfere with your developing autonomy and independence. If your family uses the app, have a conversation about if and when your family will monitor your whereabouts and which situations it’s appropriate for. 

As you settle in and feel more comfortable at school, your plan for staying in touch with your family may change. Don’t be afraid to bring it up if it does. (That’s why family group chats can be so useful to take the pressure off.) Even if your need for weekly calls or daily texts lessens over time, it’s still important to stay connected with the people you care about. These relationships will be a source of support during challenging and stressful times. 

Learn more about setting boundaries, managing difficult family relationships, and prioritizing yourself in college

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