Strategies for Staying Connected to Your Kids in College


Out of sight, out of mind, right? Unlikely, if it is a parent talking about their kids who have flown the nest! Parenting is a forever-connection to our children. But actually staying connected to your kids in college is a new challenge as we see them infrequently.

Our son and daughter are both living independent lives far from home. Between work or class schedules and time zone differences it takes effort to stay connected.

Here are some strategies to keep that connection strong, regardless of the physical distance between you and your children.

Join online college and university parent groups.

Most universities and colleges have online groups that parents can join. You’ll learn practical information like the best restaurants near campus or parking tips when visiting. You will also get a good sense of issues that are affecting students, at least from the parents point of view.

It is also an incredibly enlightening look at the many, many different ways we all parent! Even if you only read posts and don’t contribute, I’ve generally found the groups to be kind and helpful.

Subscribe to a local newspaper, follow local news.

Both of our kids attended universities out of town and now live in urban areas very different from Seacoast New Hampshire. One way we feel more a part of their new cities is by following their local news. From checking their local weather, reading news articles and finding out about upcoming events we have some insight and feel more connected.

I’ll admit that when there is unsettling news I will Google where in the city something happened. As much as we want our children to stay protected forever, there is no place that is completely safe.

It is a tough reality. But knowing what is happening in their cities gives us another opportunity to openly talk to our children and hear their perspectives about safety. We all need to stay aware of our environment and not take unnecessary risks.

Getting responses from your kids.

How do you stay connected to your child who is less likely to check in? One way that almost always guarantees a response for us is to text photos of our cats. When your child moves away they will miss their dogs and cats. Maybe more than they miss us!

A text like ‘Hi, how was your day?’ may never be answered but a photo of a favorite pet almost always gets a reply. Sometimes that is the end of the conversation but often we’ll exchange a few sentences.

I’ll also send funny memes (often animal-related). These don’t tend to get as many responses but at least they know we are thinking of them.

These texts are in addition to our scheduled weekly phone calls, which have continued even after our kids graduated from college. Hearing from them weekly can’t replace being with them but definitely keeps us connected to what is going on in their lives.

To track or not to track.

Parents can use technology (like Life360) to follow the physical whereabouts of their kids 24 hours a day. We’ve never used this type of software, partly because it seems a little ‘Big Brotherish’ to us.

Other families embrace the software and do feel more connected to their children and have a sense of safety using it.

I polled some of my friends on their use and got a variety of responses. Some families report using the software for some of their kids but not others. Other families used the software during college years but didn’t continue once their children graduated.

Interestingly, a couple families responded that they track their children and their children track them. They use the technology as another way for the entire family to stay connected, which is really very sweet. Especially when their kids question why they weren’t invited to eat at a favorite restaurant with Mom and Dad who were on a date night!

Lucky to have the connections.

When our son was young I remember talking with my mother-in-law about some situation that was worrying me. We talked and she casually mentioned that parents will always worry about their kids, regardless of their age. I didn’t believe it at the time but she was right!

But along with worry are the wonderful parts of parenting. To see your children growing into capable, independent young adults brings great joy to parents.

Working to stay connected to our kids at every age is always worth the effort.

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Hello, I’m Nancy! I’m a New Hampshire native and have enjoyed living in the Seacoast with my husband, stepdaughter and son for quite a while, decades in fact! I’ve been a software engineer, home stager, a school and community volunteer and a stay-at-home mom. I wrote a weekly running column for Seacoast Sunday/Foster’s Daily Democrat/Portsmouth Herald for many years and reported on road races including my dream assignments at the Boston Marathon. Not surprisingly, I’m an avid runner and am happiest outdoors! Nothing beats the sweet exhaustion after a long and active day spent outside in every season. Our nest is now generally empty with both kids navigating their own adult lives and my husband and I are enjoying our time together and with our two great cats. Motherhood (and life) is ever-changing and I’m adjusting to this new stage and reflecting on how lucky we’ve been.