Talking to Your Student

Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out a new normal when it comes to communicating with your student. As your student begins and progresses through their River Hawk journey, it’s important to mutually establish new expectations regarding the type and frequency of communication that you’ll have as a family. Staying connected to their support networks is a crucial element of your student’s success in college. Equally important is giving your student the ability to advocate for themselves and problem solve when challenges arrive.

How do you strike this balance? Every student and family is different when it comes to setting expectations around communication, but here are some helpful ways to approach starting this conversation.

Intentionally make time to set expectations: Sitting down with your student to have an honest discussion about how you’ll communicate throughout their college experience is important. Prior to your student beginning their college career, schedule a time to talk about communication and how communication will happen. It may seem like an awkward conversation at first, but it is an important first step to take.During the conversation, let your student do most of the talking. This can help your student feel ownership over their college experience.

Ask direct questions during the conversation: how often do you want to talk? When do you want to talk? How often do you think you’d like to come home to visit?

Make sure technology is part of your discussion: In what ways will you communicate? Will you follow your student on social media? Is texting ok instead of a voice-phone conversation?

Consider what you and your student want to communicate about: A lot of times parents and families can make the assumption that their student will fill them in on everything that’s going on in their lives. As you’re setting communication expectations, also think about what kind of things you want to talk about. Do you want to hear about their grades? Their classes? Their social life? Talk to your student in advance about what you’d like to hear about. Some topic areas that can be tough to discuss but are helpful to include are:

  • What are your concerns about mental and physical health?
  • How do we want to communicate about money and finances?
  • What expectations do we have about spending and/or credit cards?
  • What are your concerns about alcohol and alcohol use?

Talk about how challenges will be handled: There are a lot of exciting things your student will experience, but they’ll also experience some difficult times. If a problem arises, talk about ways you can communicate about the problem and ways you can offer support. Remember, the goal is to encourage your student to problem solve and advocate for themselves. If you’re wondering how to best support your student, think about the following question:

  • Has my student tried to resolve this challenge? If your student encounters a problem, like in one of their classes or with a roommate, ask them what they’ve done so far to resolve the problem. They possibly just might want to vent to you, but they might want you to step in to help out. Talk to your students about ways they could approach the problem and encourage them to try it on their own first. This can be an important step in helping your student become independent.