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The iConnected Parent: Are You Making Life Too Easy for Your Teen?

Finding this middle ground is a lot easier if you set expectations with each other ahead of time. Hofer and Sullivan offer these tips.

Let Her Come to You
During their research, Hofer and Sullivan found that students who were the ones to initiate communication more than their parents felt stronger about their relationship with their parents, and this element of control is a crucial step in developing healthy independence. "We found that in families where the parents did most of the initiating, the kids were less happy with the relationship, and described it as one of control and conflict," says Hofer.

Talk About What You Both Need
How often to connect will vary for everyone, so it is important to have a discussion with your teen about it before he leaves for college. Sit down together and decide on a plan for how often each of you would like to talk— and then abide by it.

Hofer and Sullivan don't offer any specific guidelines to follow— just whatever works for your own relationship. They offer some general points to cover, to help get your conversation started:

  • Do you need to speak everyday? Hofer and Sullivan suggest assuring your child it's ok not to speak everyday, even if that's what others are doing, because you want to provide room for independence.
  • At the end of the first semester, have another discussion about how your communication patterns are working for both of you.
  • Establish this pattern in the early months of college. Those first few months can be tumultuous, so be attuned to your child's emotions and check in from time to time— just don't over do it.

Connect in Thoughtful Ways
Back in the day before cell phones and high-tech computers, there were care packages-- those boxes filled with goodies from home, whether they were homemade cookies, a favorite book, or a picture of the family dog. Keep sending them. Don't let easy phone calls replace thoughtfulness.

In addition, use email as a form of communication, too, even if it is just passing on a piece of news of mutual interest. According to the book, many students reported feeling happy when they received an unexpected email from mom or dad.

Remember, showing your child that you are thinking about him doesn't have to include a scheduled phone call or Skype session. Sometimes a memento from home or a surprise gesture says a lot more.


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