Two of my four daughters are in college.
I write today from the perspective of a dad who is in the middle of the battle, not from the perspective of “I’ve lived though the college years and here’s what I’ve learned.”
My dad responsiblity to my girls is to love, provide, and protect them with everything I have. Just because they move out of the house and onto a college campus, my daddy objective doesn’t stop. Sure, it takes a different shape, but the heart of this endeavor remains the same.
The timing was perfect. I had just dropped CC off at college when I came across Dan Klamm’s 4 Tips for Keeping in Touch with Your College Student (what he writes, I read). These principles apply to our children’s social world, at any age, So as I read, I took notes. While technology evolves rapidly, these principles are timeless. Perhaps the following may be useful for you too, as you try to keep in touch with the younger generation through technology:
1. Let your student set some ground rules.
Connection today easier than ever. As a dad, my heart is to make sure my girls are constantly safe AND to keep an eye on their emotional health. Facebook statuses are very telling. BUT I’ve learned the hard way that each young person has a different tolerance level for mom and dad lurking on their page. Proceed with the utmost caution, and allow them to set the acceptance bar (remember, I’m talking college student, not high school age or younger. Thats a different story). Your ability to have this connection is ultimately dependent on your student’s level of comfort inviting you into his or her social world.
Klamm writes “Find out whether she’s comfortable with you commenting on photos and wall posts. Familiarize yourselves with privacy settings, which offer significant control to students who wish to selectively share content with parents.”
2. Respect your student’s space.
Don’t insert yourself into personal conversations or private moments that happen to be taking place in a venue to which you have access. Just as you wouldn’t intrude on your daughter’s romantic dinner date at a restaurant, you shouldn’t inject yourself into her Facebook wall-to-wall conversation with her new crush….guilty of this….results weren’t pretty.
See something you don’t like? Call her or even shoot her a text. Keep the concern or correction private.
3. Branch out from the usual platforms.
Facebook, texts, and Twitter are the obvious and currently popular platforms, but Foursquare and Skype shouldn’t be overlooked. Each platform provides for a different level of communication with your student. And do your best to stay current on the newest platforms. Google+, with its Huddle feature, is possibly the new Facebook.
4. Avoid over communication.
Klamm writes “Just because you can communicate with your student 24/7 doesn’t mean that you should. Remember, college is a time of growth, exploration and self-discovery. For these things to happen, students need to experience what it’s like to make decisions independently. While you can and should actively support your student’s college pursuits, resist the urge to be a constant voice in her ear (or message in her inbox).”
So when you send your student off to school, take comfort in the fact that he or she is just a poke, tweet, or Google+ hangout away. Technology can ease the pain of this life transition. It’s up to us mom and dad, to use it wisely.
Should they invite you in, enter and communicate wisely.