12 Most Tender Ways to Connect With Your College Student

12 Most Tender Ways to Connect With Your College Student

I am the parent of a college student. All parents have one thing in common, they love their kids!

Sending a child away to college is one of the hardest milestones we parents must face, while at the same time understanding that this same milestone is one of the most exciting, invigorating, and empowering times in the lives of our students. We know we need to let go, but the desire to hold them closer intensifies as college approaches.

Here are my 12 most tender ways to connect with your college student:

1. Send random texts

If you don’t text, start now! Those random “I love you” or “Have a super day” texts that I send make me feel like I am a tiny bit part of my college son’s day. Sometimes I get a response, sometimes I don’t; but none is ever expected, just cherished when they do arrive. Texting is a way to reach out to your college student and let him know that you are thinking about him, and you will, a lot!

2. Don’t forget care packages

I’m 44 (gasp!) and I still get warm fuzzies when my mom sends me something special in the mail. Care packages, no matter the size, are loved by college students everywhere. They don’t need to be weekly, or even monthly, just sent with love when you feel like making your student’s day. As I create a care package for my son, I am drawn closer to him knowing it will make him smile when it arrives. I might even get a random, “Thanks mom. I love you!” text out if it.

3. Let siblings connect too

My college son is the oldest and it was very hard for his youngest brother when his big brother left. My little guy (age 7 when his brother went to college) deals with this by asking, “Can I call or text my brother?” I don’t let him become a pest, but rather a link to home that I hope and pray my oldest son appreciates. Sometimes he answers his little brother and sometimes he doesn’t. The times he does not answer, we assume he is studying or in class. Enough said…

4. Squeeze them tight and then let go

On move-in day, I had visions in my head of tearful hugs and expressions of love from my new college boy. It didn’t happen, not on his end anyway. Instead, it was a day full of trying to get the loft bed built without directions, moving way too much stuff up three flights of stairs, and a sense of urgency I felt from my son that resonated with “just go.” So, his dad and I did. As much as we wanted to stay, (Dinner? More shopping? Anything?) we knew we had to leave. I got a brief hug and he was off to the dining hall with his new roommate. I think that’s when those random “I love you” texts started on my end!

5. Squelch your own college memories

Did you go to college? Live in the dorms or campus apartments? I did too. Those amazing memories are engrained in my mind and will never be forgotten. Some are good, some are bad, and yes, some are ugly. It’s funny how they all seemed to surface just when my son was leaving for college. I had to force my memories away and trust that my son would make good choices as he left my cozy nest and started creating his own college memories. What happens in college, stays in college… right?

6. Send enough for the roommates

Back to those much loved care packages. Including enough treats for roommates is always a good idea. Not only are you connecting with your college student, you are letting his friends know that you are thinking about them too. College friendships typically become strong and any of these students could end up being in your student’s wedding some day or a God-parent to your first grandchild. Someday, I said someday…

7. Picture texting from home

I sometimes send my son adorable pictures of our cat. Yes, cat. He loves our cat and I know that he misses her! When she strikes a particularly cute pose, I whip out my cell phone, take the picture, and instantly send it to my son. The same goes for pictures of his little brother, scenery on trips that we take, and family gatherings where we are all missing him. He sends me pictures of projects he is working on, the times he eats at my favorite restaurant, and exciting places that he goes when he’s not in class. He’s usually in class though, or studying…

8. Send snail mail — it still exists!

If your local dollar store isn’t your friend now, it will be when your student goes to college. College students love mail and dollar stores are the best place to pick-up greeting cards for every occasion. I try not to over-do the “I miss you” cards and focus on holiday, funny for no reason, and birthday cards. This past birthday was a big one for him, 20 years old! He got five birthday cards, sent a day apart and that granted me a call home wondering if I had truly lost it. Well, maybe… but it was worth the call home!

9. Stand in the gap

I’m a praying mom. I’m also a former college student who remembers what it is like to live on my own for the first time with freedom and choices all my own. For this reason, I “stand in the gap” for my son. I pray for his health, that he makes wise choices, that he does not stray from what his dad and I have taught him, and that he will reach out to us if he makes a mistake and needs our help. God connects me to my son when I pray. Amen!

10. Wear the shirts with pride

Before you leave town after move-in day, be sure to stop at the campus store and buy a few shirts proudly proclaiming your loyalty to the university. Your student will love the fact that you are proud to wear his school colors and you can be proud of the fact that you survived the teenage years long enough to get to this point. While you’re at it, you can also pick up coffee mugs, hoodies, hats, and car window clings!

11. Watch the sports and get excited!

I was flabbergasted, yes flabbergasted, when I actually got excited about college football in my son’s freshman year. I have never been a football lover, but there was something about watching the games knowing my son was also watching that made me a fan. Plus, it gave us one more thing to talk about when he called home. GO BLUE!!!

12. Visit, but don’t stay

Are you hoping there will be an extra bed or couch in your student’s dorm room or apartment for you when you visit? Did you go to college? Being the mother of boys (3 total), maybe I’m a bit out of touch on this one, but I believe college students don’t want mom and/or dad for sleepovers. Hotwire.com is your friend, use it! We’ve gotten some unbelievable hotel deals from that site, even for Parents Weekend. We travel to my son’s college a few times a year, take him (and whatever friends are around) to dinner, spend some quality time together, and then leave. Sometimes this involves breakfast the next day, sometimes it doesn’t. We visit, but we don’t STAY.

Are you the parent of a college student? How are you connecting with your student? How about those with college-bound students? As much as I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, your student will probably not call you nightly with details about his or her day. How can you connect with your student when they go off to college? I have another one leaving my nest just over a year from now, so please let me know what works for you!

Featured image courtesy of  Vectorporta via Creative Commons.

Monica Matthews


Monica Matthews is the Scholarship Expert at CollegeExpertPanel.com and author of How To Win College Scholarships. When her oldest son was a senior in high school and applying to his dream school, she panicked at the thought of paying the high cost of his college tuition. Instead of relying on loans, Ms. Matthews spent her time researching what it takes to win college scholarships and developed a unique method of applying that set apart her son’s applications. As a result, he won over $ 100,000 in scholarship money, allowing him to go to college for free. She now devotes her time and talents helping other parents and students learn how to create winning scholarship applications.

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