by Dianna Flett

If you have children who have left for college I’d like to offer this bit of contrary “advice”. I am a mom with three young men who are either in college or recent graduates and one in high school who will soon be leaving. When your kids get to college trust your gut on how to handle the long distance relationship.

I thought I’d been criticized as a parent for about every decision I’d made. Breastfeeding, not breastfeeding, working or staying home, following schedules, picking preschools and on and on. I thought when the boys were older that would stop.

Uh, no.

Now I keep seeing parents of young adults at the college level struggling with whether or not they should reach out and stay connected to their student adults. It seems a lot of current wisdom revolves around not texting or interacting with your newly “deployed” adult.

I just don’t get it. Why do we accept that life can only be learned through angst and discomfort vice coaching and support. I’m not saying it’s okay to force yourself on your college student or be the dreaded “helicopter, lawnmowing, snowplowing” parent that is now the touchstone of evil parenting. Indeed one son told us to back off a bit and WE DID. However, if your son or daughter is struggling and lonely for some particular reason, perhaps he/she hasn’t made friends yet, or his/her friends leave on the weekends, why not let them come home or go visit them? If they are routinely independent and strong or if you know they struggle with anxiety, why in the world would you avoid offering them support? Yes, call, text, Facetime, reach out and support them. The experts??? I suspect they’re out writing their next book, not parenting your children.

Detaching from them doesn’t “build character”. Good parenting builds character, and if someone is only starting that process when their young adult leaves for college it is a tad late. Is it always right to think we have to be tough to teach our kids strength?

“It’s good for them. It’ll toughen them up.” If you’re over 25 you know life will toughen them up. I’m about as tough a person as you’ll find and my parents were there for me routinely. They didn’t tell me how to do things unless I asked but they were wiser than me and I was smart enough to know it. They were more experienced than me, and they were a great source of support. We’ve lost some of that generational knowledge sharing when we became a migrant society. When I was 19 I moved away from home, but I never stopped calling my parents or asking for their thoughts, support and guidance.

Teach your children to be resilient and thoughtful, to persevere, and show kindness, to stand up for themselves and show grit. They will know the standard because you will show the standard. Teach them to be who they are in the face of adversity by modeling that behavior. Not by holding off texting them or calling.

My dad died when I was a senior in college. I wish I’d gone home every single weekend, but I didn’t. I wish that last Friday phone call when he asked if I wanted to meet him for coffee I had dropped everything to sit with him and just be with him. I should have cut the stupid class, or ditched the date I had, and met him. He would die that same weekend.

My reassurance to any parent reading this is if your child needs/wants/is asking for you, go bring them home for a bit or take a visit if you can. By all means Facetime them or text them and if they ask for your support, use your best judgment. Is this a time to help them “grow away” or do they need you?

They are your kids. You know them best.

Trust. Your. Heart.