E.T. Phoned Home… You Can Do It Too


By Valerie McGinnis, 2011 Liberty University graduate

When I started college I was looking forward to exactly three things:

  • Friends
  • Living in a new region
  • Freedom

Sure, there is a lot of vitally important consideration that takes place before deciding on a school, and that should not be undermined. However, once that decision is made most students are suddenly less interested in the rigorous academic setting and world renowned library that captivated their interest (and their parents’ wallets) and more interested in things like… leaving the dorm without having to call mom or dad first. It was ironic timing for me, then, that just as I was finally ready to taste a little independence, my mom was having second thoughts about that office space she’d dreamed of converting my room into.

“You’ll miss me when I’m gone.”

Ever heard the phrase “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone?” Yeah, well that’s true—especially for parents letting go of a child for the first time. I decided to go to school 13 hours from home, but you couldn’t have guessed I was leaving the entire summer leading up to my first semester away. In fact, I was even getting a little self concious about the fact that I seemed to be the only one who was a little sad about leaving.

And then I left.

By the third day of classes, I thought my mother had lost her mind. I came back to my dorm and opened my laptop only to find 27 instant messages from her. I’ll spare you from listing them all, but the general effect was ‘it’s been three hours since my first message and I haven’t talked to you. Have fun!’ … ‘I still haven’t heard from you. You’ll do great today.’ … ‘It’s been seven hours and you’ve been ignoring me.” … And finally, ‘If you don’t call me I’ve located the number for campus security and will check in there.’

How To Avoid Having Your Mother Call Campus Security

So my mom didn’t end up calling the police, but I feel moderately confident that she may have had I not called her to put her mind at ease. In retrospect, I’d been at school for more than a week and the only contact I’d made was to hope someone from my family saw my Facebook status updates.

RELATED: Parenting Tips: Are You a Teacup Parent?

It probably won’t seem like a big deal to call your family once you’re at school, but trust me—it makes a difference. While you’ve spent most of the summer getting used to the idea of being out of the house, most parents don’t realize you’re leaving until you’re gone. And while you’ve got orientation, new friends, and classes to keep you busy, your parents just have an empty room at home. I know from personal experience that it can seem like the hardest thing in the world to keep your family satisfactorily updated, but if you do it efficiently it’s really not.

Being Mindful

  1. While there will be times when your parents will want to keep you on the phone for a good chunk of time, for the most part, they just want to know that you’re, I don’t know… alive. The easiest way to do this is to make a quick phone call. Do it on your way to class, even if you just leave a voicemail or say a quick hello.
  2. Do the seemingly impossible: Add your parents as Facebook friends. This is convenient for you and insightful for them. It allows them to have a general idea of your well being without being intrusive. You’ll also be amazed at the decrease in phone calls you’ll receive at an inconvenient time, since they’ll be able to tell if you’re busy.
  3. Shoot your family text messages. Even if your parents haven’t learned how to decipher this communication method, they’ll catch on. Or, if you’d rather, text a sibling. They’re usually pretty good at passing word along.
  4. Pick a day to sit down and have an actual conversation with your family. If you have an agreed upon time, it’s easier for your parents to give you some breathing room until then. Taking a break from studying on a Sunday afternoon (you’ll actually do that once orientation ends, believe me) is always a welcomed thing. It gives you some time to unwind and your parents the satisfaction of knowing you’re okay.


Keep in mind that the most important thing about staying in touch is mutual respect and understanding. Remember that college is a transition for your family too, and phone home every once in awhile!

RELATED: Positive Parenting Tips



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