New Communication Guidelines for You and Your Family

The situation

You and your family will benefit from setting up expectations for communication while you are away at school. Have a conversation before you go to school about how, and with what frequency, you will communicate.

Of course, we are living in an age of multiple communication options. You can call, text, email, Facetime, connect on Facebook or Skype. You should work out what kinds of communication options are comfortable for both you and your family and friends.


Try to imagine what amount of communication feels right for you and will allow your family to feel confident that things are settling in well. Obviously this can be very flexible but you should let your family know how often they can expect you to be in touch and they should let you know if this feels ok.

Ground rules

As part of your communication plan, you also might want to work out what kinds of situations and decisions your family wants to know about. Are there certain kinds of expenses or purchases that they’d want you to check with them about before buying? If you are sick would they want to know? Are there particular problems that you all agree they should be brought into (if you are failing a course for example)? Is there a circumstance in which you all agree your roommates should contact your family?

Let them know

No doubt, you and your family are all excited and proud that you are beginning college. As a result of this, some people are hesitant to let their family know if they are having any problems – they don’t want to disappoint or let their family down in any way. Starting school can be a little lonely or rocky for many students. Let them know about problems you might be having and try to work out a plan together to manage the difficulty. This will be a big help in addressing problems before they become bigger.

Remember that ideally in your college experience you want to get both a well-rounded education and also some level of specialization and focused knowledge in a particular area. Your advisers and faculty are there to guide you along the way.

Evaluate and adjust as needed

As you spend some time in school, consider whether the ground rules you’ve established are feeling right for everyone. Are you feeling like you are having enough or too much contact? Is your family comfortable with how much information they are hearing from you? Discuss any changes you feel would work for you and make sure they are ok with your family too.

You will probably find that your needs for contact may change through the first term and first year of school. This is fine. Your family will probably be open to shifting the arrangement and frequency with your needs as long as the plan makes sense.

Get Help Now

If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone right now, text, call, or chat 988 for a free confidential conversation with a trained counselor 24/7. 

You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.

If this is a medical emergency or if there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.