Communicating with Your Student

We asked parents of rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors to think back to their student’s freshmen year and what they wish they had known.  Their advice is below.


Every kid is different. Some like lots of communication, like a text every day, and others are hard to get on the phone once a week. Make a plan to Skype or Face Time once a week so you can physically see your child and talk to them. Don’t succumb to just text messages. You can’t hear your child’s voice or see them, and that’s important.

Don’t call or text them unless you have an important reason.  Wait for them to text or call you.

When the phone rings – take the call!  They will talk when they want to talk….not when you want to talk, so drop what you are doing and take the call.

Make a plan BEFORE you drop them off in the Fall to establish your expectations of when and how many times you expect them to touch base with you each week and then leave them alone.  Freshman year, my daughters sent “Life Updates” by email every Sunday to keep us updated on what was going on in their lives.  I was able to send those on to their Dad, grandparents, siblings and aunts so they would also have an update.

I do text them every Friday to tell them to “make good choices.”  We had used that as our code phrase in high school to remind them of the behavior we expected from them when they went out on weekends, and though it is only a few words, the meaning goes far deeper and speaks volumes, and they know it.

If you have a boy like I do that doesn’t talk much write them a weekly letter. That way you get to do all the talking and you KNOW they will read it 🙂

I found the hardest thing was not sending my son a text every time I thought of something to tell him. Getting in touch is just too easy now but I knew he needed to get on with his own life. I try to save up my conversational bits for a weekly call usually on Friday after classes.

In my experience, real conversations with my son were focused on all that was going on in his world at Wake.  His time, or maybe tolerance for phone calls was limited.  We wanted to hear all about what he was doing and learning.  About his new friends and clubs he was joining.  That left precious little time for us to talk to him about what was happening at home.  So I sent him emails.  Every couple of weeks I sent cards.  Funny pictures on the front or silly sayings – I couldn’t see the smile on his face but I knew it would be there when he opened that card.  In those emails and cards I kept him up to date with what was happening in our lives.  Nothing terribly exciting or profound, just the simple stuff we used to talk about at the dinner table before he left for school.

Know that you’re not going to hear much from the boys… and you’ll probably hear too much from the girls!

Understand they might only call / check-in when it’s a bad day, as hearing your voice will help. It took me a while to understand this and not think they were sad, upset, etc. for an extended period. They quickly move on after hearing your reassurances. Sometimes checking in with a sibling or good friend from home also is calming for them.

My daughter did not call home or text frequently. At times, I felt left out when I talked to other parents who heard from their children daily. I have a close relationship with my daughter; she is just an independent young woman who didn’t feel the need to touch base frequently.

Get the cell phone number of one of their friends on campus (or roommate). Just in case you need to reach them and their phone dies, etc… You will likely never have to use it but it provides great peace of mind knowing you could reach them through a friend on campus, if needed

Send a letter by snail mail and a package with their favorite goodies. I also sent Halloween goody bags for the entire hall. They all loved my kid (and me!) for that.

In the Daily Deac blog, Betsy Chapman has tells us that getting in touch on the weekends will remind our children of their ties to home and possibly cut down on improper use of alcohol.

Listen more, talk less.  Allow there to be a pause in the conversation.  Your son or daughter will fill that space with what is important to them.

Send care packages and send pictures of the family pet.

Remind them that your love in unconditional. Remind them that they will make mistakes and you will be there to help them pick up the pieces. Remind them that they will not get all “A”s, they will very likely not be the best at their sport, their talent, or in their classes. It is hard to let go of your identity in high school and the competition at Wake is tremendous. Remind them that you are there for their disappointments and failures as well as their successes. And then make sure you are there as you said you would be.


[Editorial note: The comments have been minimally edited and grouped together for coherence.  In come cases, comments were combined with others.  When we had parents responding with the same advice, we repeated it for emphasis.  In the event a parent offered advice that ran counter to what Wake Forest advises, it was not included.  These comments represent the views of the parent commentators, not the views of the Office of Family Engagement (formerly Parent Programs office) or Wake Forest. ]