Most parents drop their college student children off at school, drive away — and then wonder how long it will be before the phone rings. Minutes? Hours? Days? Weeks? Months?
How long should a parent wait before freaking out and organizing a search party?
Emory University psychology professor Marshall Duke was online Thursday afternoon to answer questions about parenting college students. Several people asked him about communication.
In response to one such question, Duke responded:
“Most parents find that communication with their children drops in frequency as time passes and the students become more familiar with and invested in their college experiences. This is a good sign. If there is a sudden increase in e-mail, text or phone call frequency, it may signal a problem but I always say, it is at this point that parents need to encourage kids to solve their own problems through use of campus resources. This can be hard for parents, but it’s important for the development of independence in the children.”
Lots of people chimed in with their own opinions, including this one: ”LEAVE THEM ALONE, PARENTS!”
When I suggested that students and parents come up with a basic plan of how often to chat, Duke added: A “good plan is to allow the students to call you when they wish. Of course, if you don't hear anything for a week or more, a gentle nudge can be helpful and reassuring.”
Another reader then made us all laugh with this comment: “I agree with Mr. Duke about a ‘gentle nudge’ if the student doesn’t call very often, but it depends on the student. One of mine needed a ‘gentle sledgehammer’ to get him to call more than once a month.”
(You can read a full transcript of the chat, here.)
What do you think? How often is too often — or not often enough — to call home? Please share your thoughts, experiences and funny stories in the comments section.