Contact: how much, how often?

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: Contact: how much, how often?
By Fredo (Fredo) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 10:57 am: Edit

For you experienced parents out there, I have a question. How much contact do you have with your kid and how often?

My daughter has already told me I'm being excessive with e-mails and calls. Although, a lot of that was just getting some logistical stuff squared away during the first week at college e.g.getting her some additional storage shelves and a TV and how to get her the stuff.

I certainly want to respect her wishes. But I don't want to lose touch with her so I'm thinking it's a fine line between too much for her and too little for me. I guess it also depends on her - I'm thinking that for the first several weeks I'll back off with maybe just a quick e-mail every few days. Then once she's settled in and some of the novelty of everything wears off, talk directly to her about how we can keep in touch enough so that I'm giving her space while I'm still feeling connected.

How have some of you handled this?

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 11:13 am: Edit

I have to say that while I responded to her emails, and I even called her on the weekends ( not that she was in her room), I was too busy with her sister and with the rest of life to be worried about her.
I think I had a different experience though. From the time she was about 15 she spent a great bulk of the summer as a junior camp counselor where the only communication was letters ( she didn't write, I didn't write very often maybe twice during whole summer and that was the most), although the main area where she was staying did have a phone and occasionally I would leave a message. I did hear from her if she needed something, so I guess I would say things are going pretty well if you don't hear!
Also it is like at camp, it really takes a few weeks without being torn between home and camp to get situated. I would say giving her space is very important and now is a great time for you to explore what you can do with all your extra freedom now that there is one less teenager in the house!

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 11:15 am: Edit

There are some threads on this, including one recently, I think.

But it's a good question. I would have called my D every day had I not known it was completely unreasonable. But I do know kids who talked to their parents daily during freshman year. So I think it varies. Some people swear by IM, which I've never really done, and don't think my D would like.

I think back to my college days -- one call from the parents every Sunday morning, to the hallway phone. Otherwise, an occasional letter. I think one call a week is reasonable for parents to expect -- if kids want to talk more, of course that's fine.

I should say that my D was TERRIBLE about calling us. I would have preferred that she call us every week, rather than us calling her but it became clear that wasn't going to happen. So I called her 1-2x per week. Our calls were generally short, no more than 10 minutes.

E-mails are a good idea, because she can respond whenever she wants. That usually worked for me, although I sent more than I got responses to! And I worried A LOT during the year (just my nature, unfortunately).

By Jenniferelaine (Jenniferelaine) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 11:22 am: Edit

I'm the daughter. I have a cell phone. I freak out easily. I'm the excessive one when it comes to communication.

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 11:34 am: Edit

My own mother called every single morning my entire college career and it became a bit of a burden. Thus h and I developed the philosphy during summer programs that it should be mostly left up to the child to make contact -- unless we had a particular concern. We did check in briefly once a week. Infrequent & brief calls generally meant they were having a grand time and too busy to think about us-- a good situation imho. It surprised us how homesick they both were first term at college. Especially the kid who would leave for a summer program and never contact us at all! Luckily we had lots of frequent flyer miles saved up for them to visit and a really inexpensive cell phone plan LOL. Second term and second year were much easier on them. Doesn't it depend on the student? And the parent's comfort level? Everyday calls seem excessive to me but it was very clear to me that such contact was essential to my mom and it certainly didn't hurt our relationship. I like email better than phone mostly because my kids are sweet enough to interrupt whatever they are involved in to chat & humour me and that makes me uncomfortable. I do sometimes email them to request a call when it is convenient.

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 11:36 am: Edit

Emptynester -- I like your last suggestion and may use it. Since the kids check e-mail at least once a day (probably more), it's easy enough to ask that they call in the next day or so, and then they can call when convenient for them, rather than us interrupting something. Thanks!

By Thumper1 (Thumper1) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 01:27 pm: Edit

We made a deal with DS. We pay for his cell phone in exchange for ONE call per week whenever it is convenient for him. He never missed that call (although the times DID vary!!). I think he didn't want to pay for that phone himself. Other than that, I only emailed occasionally when I needed info or when there was news I thought he'd be interested in. IM's were infrequent also, unless HE initiated them (which he did on occasion). I honestly don't think it's unreasonable to ask for some kind of "contact" weekly whether that be a call, email or IM. I know my kid would have not wanted anything more often than that. Could this be a "girl/boy" thing? Friends with daughters (of mine...personal note only) tend to speak to their daughters more often than friends with sons. Just a thought.

By Bookiemom (Bookiemom) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 01:34 pm: Edit

We pay for my D's cell phone and got her a better plan with lots of minutes so she can call whenever she wants to. She was quite homesick her freshman year and called us almost every day. I found it was better to let her call us, so that it was a convenient time for her to talk. Sometimes she called more than once a day, which was really too much, but all those calls seem to have helped her with the transition to college life.

I think Thumper's plan is a good one. If the parents pay for the cell phone plan, then one call per week is reasonable. My nephew seldom talked to his parents during his freshman year, so maybe it is a "girl/boy" thing.

By Achat (Achat) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 01:35 pm: Edit

I plan on not calling until my son calls. I will try my best not to. Move in day is tomorrow. I think he will call at least once a week. If not, then I'll try and call him. He said he wants space and we're planning on giving it to him.

Less than once a week is a bit much especially in the first semester of freshman year.

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 02:16 pm: Edit

I can't say we had a regular schedule; there may be some weeks when we would talk 4-5 times because of logistical issues, and then when s was up to his eyeballs in work or ECs we might not talk for 5 days. We did not hear from him much at all during the first two weeks of freshman year, because he was running around like a nut getting his academic, EC, and social life organized. I try to be sensitive to s's wanting to be immersed in his busyness, and he is sensitive to Mom's wanting to hear his voice. We certainly try to have a good talk once a week, which is different from the logistical contacts (doing the latter mostly by email and IMs does make them less intrusive). When I do call, I always ask s if this is a good moment for him to talk, and I quickly get off the phone if it isn't. I know if he is really busy or in a meeting or something he will turn off his phone, which is fine with me.

Keep in mind that there are some students who almost never speak with their parents, and they do make fun of those who do...

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 02:21 pm: Edit

Achat -- I also had planned to not call and wait until my D did last year, but couldn't hold out -- I called two days later to make sure everything was OK.

I've often thought that I should just NOT call her and see how long it would take for her to actually call me (a LOOOONG time, I suspect!), but have never been able to hold out that long!

Hope you're enjoying the end of the summer! We are taking D out for dinner for her 19th birthday tonight, to celebrate the beginning of her last teen year(b-day was actually yesterday), and I already miss her, even though she's here until Labor Day weekend!

By Sybbie719 (Sybbie719) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 02:50 pm: Edit

I think that a lot of it depends upon the kid, because some kids just like touching base with their parents (how many of us as adults still call the folks just to say hi).

I tease my daughter that she will be too busy with her new life to think about me and the dog, and she said, "why would you think I would not call you because I like talking to you". She calls when she is waiting for the bus to come home just to shoot the breeze. My daughter gets free long distance at school, in addition to having a nationwide calling plan with free nights and weekends so there is no reason for her not to call, but will she?

If she has the time to call, I will welcome it, if she doesn't I won't worry about it too much, because I know that eventually she will check in and I can always catch her on IM

By Gidget (Gidget) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 03:31 pm: Edit

My mom and are a really close, like Gilmore Girls close but she was cool about communication even though it was really hard for me to leave and her to let me leave. We talked on the phone around 3 times a week and emailed back and forth regularirly...

By Farawayplaces (Farawayplaces) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 03:58 pm: Edit

We told our kids: We need to talk to you once a week. They never call (unless they need money or help), so we call them on Sundays. Our younger child is more reality-challenged, so he didn't mind that we called him twice a week his freshman year; he usually had some question (if you can believe this, he did not know how to mail a letter!) But he told us the other day that he will be too busy sophomore year to talk to us more than once a week.

I can't imagine letting a kid get away with taking the folks' money and not checking in with them once a week; it's just good manners.

I was very lonely for my oldest when she left home. But I still did not bug her on the phone. I think I e-mailed her every day for months! Stories about the cat, etc. She made fun of me for it, but I don't think she minded, as I never asked for a reply (and almost never got one).

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 04:03 pm: Edit

(if you can believe this, he did not know how to mail a letter!)

Oh yes, I believe it! -- frequently from your posts, I think we must have the same child!

By Achat (Achat) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 04:28 pm: Edit

Rhonda, I suspect I'll be calling too..I think he will forget to call.

By Cheers (Cheers) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 04:41 pm: Edit

Fredo, if she says you are calling too much, then you should back off a bit. Suggest a regular schedule for her approval.

I've established a surprisingly nice correspondence routine with S. I didn't think I would hear from him as much as I do....but it is mostly by email following one classic incident.

He dialed my number by mistake and I heard the rustle of his jacket against the cell phone and immediately thought: MUGGING!! haha. Too many years in NYC??

I started shrieking his name--which he did not appreciate when he finally pulled the cell phone out of his pocket. Nothing like your nasally American mother screeching your name through your pocket on the streets of Notting Hill.

One tip for dealing with your own loneliness: write her an email when you want to talk but don't send it, just save it. At the end of the week you can edit your drafts and post something wonderful.

Remember, these are bright ADULTS really, you'll be much more successful with correspondence if it is funny and enjoyable to read....or if your phone call has a few good stories to tell.

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 05:30 pm: Edit

Cheers, what a hilarious story!

Isn't it our job to be embarrassing once in a while? ;-)

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 07:33 pm: Edit

I have got to tell this story although it isn't mine.
A friend of my daughters took several years off after high school to teach on a small island in Micronesia.
This island is so small that you have to go to another island to radio in.
His mom hadn't heard from him in quite a while and was not only missing him, but getting concerned. ( there also had been typhoons that damaged the food supply) Although she regularly sent word to this neighboring island for him to "call home", he never did manage to. Finally she contacted an admiral in the Navy who was commanding an aircraft carrier that was going through that area to check on him.
He finally called back, saying "what did you do that for" !

By Proudmama (Proudmama) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 07:43 pm: Edit

Freshman year S posted what was happening on his AIM away message (which I would check every chance I got.) Even just seeing the word "dinner" or "at class" made me feel in touch with his life and it was not intrusive on his.

By Liek0806 (Liek0806) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 07:48 pm: Edit

I think it depends on the type of son or daughter you have because for example my sister and my mom talk to each other everyday and she's already in her sophomore year, even if it's just to say hi bye i'm still alive! but like for me i would personally hate it if my mom called everyday or if i had to call her everyday, i love her too death, she's like my bestest friend, but talking on the phone with my mom is just not interesting, the relationship is really in person not over the phone or long distance, but yes it depends no your child

By Cheers (Cheers) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 08:38 pm: Edit

but talking on the phone with my mom is just not interesting,

Bingo... but oi!

By Anxious_Mom (Anxious_Mom) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 08:39 pm: Edit

At first I thought I wouldn't call my older son, but let him call. After 2 weeks, I thought I'll just call once a week if I haven't heard from him... Then I thought perhaps I'm being too pesky, so I'll call once every 2 weeks. Then I started feeling something was wrong and called several days in a row - what was odd was that no matter what time I called, he was in his room - alone. He came home for a weekend about 2 months in, left the house but didn't arrive at the college. His roommate called me. I called his cell phone and he just didn't "feel" like going back. Turns out that he had gone into a serious depression... Then I wished I called more often. It's always darned if you do, and darned if you don't.

By Fendergirl (Fendergirl) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 09:29 pm: Edit

i very rarely call my home.. and they rarely call me. the only times I really call home are if i leave to go somewhere for a weekend, I call home to say I got there safely, and once again when i come back (my boyfriend lives about two hours from my college, and i normally visit about once a month. so theres my phone call).. i also go home about once a month as well, and I call before i leave and when I get back. my mom also is on AIM every day reading my away messages. she even has my three roommates screen names on her list, so if my away message makes sense, she can read theirs and guess where I am :) she's gotten so used to IMing me she sometimes IMs me at home, when she is up the hall! it's cute though.

By Anxiousmom (Anxiousmom) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 09:48 pm: Edit

(It's me, the other anxiousmom..) My DD has called almost every day to share her news and things with us. The best thing we ever did a few month ago was to get a family cell phone plan with unlimited free cell -to-cell calling for anyone with plans with that company. When I was in college phones were scarce and calls were saved for boring once-a-week calls, or major traumas.. (Mom, I have mono and I want to drop out of school..) With cell phones, calls can be casual and low-stress - just for little things, or to say hi. My guess is that her calls will taper off as the workload increases and she really finds a core group of friends - but until then, I cherish the unexpected calls about little things - breakfast food, a trip to Target, textbook choices, some clubs she is considering joining, etc.

By Poetsheart (Poetsheart) on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 02:08 am: Edit

Anxiousmom, we're thinking about getting a similar calling plan. Which one did you choose? We were recently told by a couple of current Bryn Mawrters that they get excellent cell phone reception from Verizon and T-Mobile (which was a big relief, as others had complained that they got lousy reception from their cell providers in the dorms).

Move-in day for D is wednesday, and my emotions are all over the place. I find myself on the verge of tears at odd times throughout the day. Gawd, I'm gonna miss that kid!

(AKA) Valpal

By Anxiousmom (Anxiousmom) on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 07:32 pm: Edit

Poetsheart: We got a Cingular wireless plane (with free clamshell phones) which with taxes ends up being $109. per month (4 phone lines: we each have one)- it seems a lot, but I just love us all being able to contact each other. We have been able to roll over 80% of our minutes each month because cell-to-cell is free, night and weekends are free, free longdistance and roaming, too. BUT, I had a major scare when we took DD to Rice and when we tried out the phones we couldn't contact each other at all. I was upset and thought that we had locked ourselves into a phone plan that was not going to work. It must have been a fluke - it has worked perfectly since then. But ask at your DD's school which companies get strong reception and then go with one of those companies.

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 08:37 pm: Edit

It depends on the kid and what is going on with him. There may be times when you will call, e-mail, visit a lot. Then they may ask you to back off so you do. Thing happen, things change. I really miss my D alot right now but she is very busy in her life and does not want the contact, so I respect her wishes and call once a week just to make sure she is all right. There were times when we did talk or e-mail every day. My son right now is overly needy. I could use some distance from him but for some reason he wants the contact and he did not when he was in college. There really is no fixed formula, you have to play by ear, and change things when things change.

By Lamom (Lamom) on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 08:40 pm: Edit

First Anxious_Mom, how did things go with your son?. Depression and other mental illness have always worried me more than alcohol for college students.
Tuesday is move in day, then school recommends no home for 6-8wks. Son is a bit concerned about the dog-the dog loves the "kid", looks for him when he is gone. I told son maybe he could call the dog. So maybe son will call the dog and we will know he is ok at school. Son is only child.

By Alongfortheride (Alongfortheride) on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 10:42 pm: Edit

I just got finished talking to son on the webcam. So far the IM and webcam has worked. If we're both on and he wants to talk, he can, or he can not join in. If it's really important stuff, I'll call or email. I get the feeling from him that he definitely likes his space now. He's only been there two days though. We'll see how it goes.

By Latetoschool (Latetoschool) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 08:16 am: Edit

LOL, when my now junior was a freshman, I nearly went out of my mind waiting for her first calls. I cleaned the house like crazy, even to the point of dusting off lightbulbs - anything to force myself not to call. Just felt it was very important to step back and let her initiate the level and frequency of contact.

Happily, that has worked well. Rarely, I initiate a call - when I do, it's for a reason of support or to report something pleasant and positive. I do also send lots of happy, supportive email, and also send lots of surprise care packages. The care packages don't have to be big or dramatic or expensive - it seems that they LOVE to get mail, and you can grab a small box, and put little fun happy things in it, such as toys that you might give to a six year old (mine actually likes this stuff), interesting things picked up on business travel, any accumulated mail addressed to them, as well as traditional things like food, home baked cookies, etc.

Doing this helps ease the discomfort of missing her so much; also, sending a surprise care package always prompts a call to say thanks, or at minimum a "thanks and I love you" via email lol.

Prior to her arriving on campus freshman year, her school sent all the parents a copy of the book "Letting Go". I actually hated the book, even threw it away, but not before forcing myself to read it cover to cover, and I do have to say it helped me a lot to understand when days and days went by those first few months with no call or email from her.

Now, I might get three calls in one day, or perhaps not hear from her for days and days on end. Usually I get a call "just to say hi" while she's racing between classes.

By Achat (Achat) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 08:24 am: Edit

We're back from dropping son off to college. He did look forlorn for the first time this summer. Anyway, I haven't called yet and neither has he.

By Achat (Achat) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 09:01 am: Edit

I noticed that the freshman girls are nicer than the boys in terms of making friends and being warm and friendly. Hope he makes friends. (Sorry for being politically incorrect).

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 09:25 am: Edit

Achat -- congratulations on your son's new beginning! I'm sure he will feel at home in no time. I agree, girls are often more "social" more quickly, but I think the boys probably have their established ways of making friends, too, it's probably just not as obvious as the girls'. (I also apologize for stereotyping!).

By Momofboys (Momofboys) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 12:49 pm: Edit

We dropped our son off last week too. I was walking out of Sams yesterday and he called. I was very excited to hear from him and told him so. He said "Mom, I told you I would call. I just don't want to be tied down to a time." I won't let my husband call him although it is oh, so tempting. I figure that the conversation will go so much better when he initiates it. He IMs his brother almost daily. I have goten one IM and one email which were both logistical matters in getting him settled. I miss knowing what goes on in his life, but conversely I've spent my last eighteen years trying to make him a responsible adult and should be happy he is. I'm glad I also have a freshman in high school.

By Achat (Achat) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 12:57 pm: Edit

Rhonda, thanks. I just heard a lot of 'nice to know you' from the neighbors' room which houses 4 girls.

(again apologize for being stereotyping).

By Sac (Sac) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 01:56 pm: Edit

So, here I am being so good about not calling our son, who flew 3000 miles on his own yesterday, dutifully called to report he safely arrived at my brother's, and today is checking into his dorm room prior to leaving on a student-run pre-orientation trip.

Then, my husband calls me to let me know he just phoned our son with a Simpson's trivia question so husband can win a free cup of coffee at the shop downstairs. Of all the lame excuses! He wants to call again, tonight, "in case" our son needs us to get some more stuff for his room. (And who says it's the moms who are the softees?)

By Aim78 (Aim78) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 02:56 pm: Edit

Every day is excessive. If the kid lives far from home and doesn't come on weekends, then 3-4 calls a week would be fine. If they do come home on the weekends, you only need to call once or twice.

By Sokkermom (Sokkermom) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 03:04 pm: Edit

Dad had to email him with the Red Sox score (another lame excuse), and also reminded him that he could call anytime on our "Family Plan" with all those free cell to cell minutes......

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 03:14 pm: Edit

Aim -- I think 3-4 times a week, every week, is actually a bit excessive even for a kid away at college who doesn't come home on weekends. If the kid WANTS to talk that frequently, fine, but I think it's a bit much for the parent to initiate.

I really think that in most cases 1-2x/week is enough, preferably once a week. Obviously, some weeks maybe more, for whatever reason, and if you have concerns about how your kid is doing, you probably SHOULD call more to check on them!

By Soozievt (Soozievt) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 10:01 pm: Edit

I have not had my child leave for college yet, so I am not sure what will be in this regard but I have a pretty good guess. I think each child is so different in this respect also. Just in my own family, each of my kids handles this differently.

Neither of my kids are the homesick type and I do not worry about that part. But I do like to stay in touch, not that I am worried about them but more because when we are apart, I miss the daily contact so I at least want some semblance of some type of regular ongoing contact, though not every day of course. My kids have gone away for the summer for many years. Each handled this "staying in touch" differently. Let me say that it was a bit different from college in that I really could not call them, though could leave a message asking for them to call. But they had to call me basically (and write).

My older daughter has always kept in touch regularly without our asking her to. She likes to and I like it a lot as well. I would say that most summers, she would call home at least every three days when she could, give or take. She wrote regularly as well. At one program she went to for four summers, there was a computer lab. She would make it a point to regularly use her free period to sign up to use it and send us an email. Then once in while, I realized she went there after dinner sometimes and got online and we actually IMed which was really great. When overseas, she occasionally was able to go to an internet cafe and would always send us and her grandparents an e mail. I have no idea what college will be like but since I know her to be this way, I am just surmising that she will call us a couple times per week and likely shoot us an e mail or IM just to stay in touch. I likely will not call her as much because it is easier for her to call when it is most convenient for her. We shall see what happens.

Now, my other child, different story. I have to impress upon her (putting it mildly) when she is gone in summer or other long trips, that she is to call on a regular basis and to write. Well, she never writes. I felt that being so young, it was within reason for me to hear a call about every four or five days. Often, she did NOT comply. It was not like I was worried about her as I knew she was having the time of her life but she was gone all summer, and was not the age of college students like we are talking but began going away at age 8, that I really hated not hearing from a child on a regular basis which already is much less than if they are at home. I would have to leave messages at her program asking her to call home which she often ignored. This past summer, I told her no excuses (such as the lines for the phone are too long) because we let her take a cell phone, though they were not allowed, every friend of hers had one there and usually she did not. This way, she could call from her bed late at night and no lines, etc. She was a bit better, but went one week with no call and so I had to leave messages for her to call. She never wrote. She had no access to computers. Today in a conversation on an 8 hour car ride, she irritated me quite a bit in telling me that she often did not read the entirety of my written letters sent every other day to her. The gall, lol! Really, she could not be bothered! She said it took too much of her valuable time! My other D never ever would have said or done that! So, they are in the same family but different this way.

So, I don't have to "make" my older daughter stay in touch. But I do have to lay out more specific expectations to my younger one if I let her off on her own. If nobody is there to make her do something we ask of her, she may choose to ignore the request! I imagine when she goes to college in another year, this expectation will have to be spelled out. And if she ends up in a city environment on her own at the young age she has asked to leave home, I hope she complies with this expectation to stay in touch. I think with e mail, IM, and cell phones, it is easier today than ever. You can leave messages for you child easily so it can't be that hard. I still think it is easier for the child to call home than vice versa so that the timing is more convenient for the kid, who naturally IS busy.

I'll let ya know how this comes to play when college starts. Right now, I am only basing it on the past! Also, now in college, they are older so I might get looser on the frequency issue than when apart from a much younger child. Then again, they are gone for way longer!

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