Parenting an Out of State College Student

I was apprehensive, yet excited, when my daughter decided that she wanted to attend school in another state.   Happily, she would only be a 2 ½ hour drive away from home.  Along with the excitement was the reality that I wouldn’t see her every day and thus wouldn’t be able to parent the way I would if she lived at or closer to home.

As a “remote parent,” technology such as Facetime, email and texting simplifies staying in touch and increases the frequency of our communication.  Although she is not at home and doesn’t require my permission to go out, I stress to her the need to carry her phone at all times and contact me in case of an emergency.  As a parent, I want to know that she is safe so ready communication is a must.  Each time she informs me that she is going out with friends, my husband and I continue to reinforce the list of do and don’t messages…”When you go out with friends, do make sure you come back home with those friends”; “Never leave with someone you don’t know”; “Don’t drink from an open bottle”; “Don’t drink and drive; “Do know that we love you and call us if you need help.”  It’s also important to me to learn the names of the people who are closest to my daughter.  I know the names of her roommates and her close friends.  When we communicate via Facetime or phone, I ask about them just to improve my connection with her.  Staying in constant contact with my daughter makes me feel closer regardless of the physical distance between us.

As always, keeping my daughter healthy is one of my top priorities.  When she left for school in September, I purchased an inventory of cold medicines.  In October, my daughter caught her first cold.  She called me immediately and I suggested that she start taking the best medicines to treat her symptoms.   Although I wasn’t there to make her chicken soup, I found out that the dining halls offer “get well meals.” In addition to homemade soup, they have many of the other comforts of home like crackers, fresh fruit, ginger ale, tea, and Jell-o.   It’s comforting for both of us to know that in case she gets a cold/flu, she can contact the dining hall to prepare the necessary meals to get her on her feet again.  Additionally, sending a care package or card to her during her illness also helps when you are not there in person.

Although, we live out of state, I opted not to let my newly licensed daughter use a car.  Her two transportation options are the Peter Pan bus or parent pickup, thus eliminating my concern of her driving home alone during school breaks or holidays, especially during inclement weather.

Finally, I have joined the UMass Amherst Parents Advisory Council as a means of keeping abreast of what’s going on at UMass Amherst. In addition to providing an opportunity to get involved on another level, it gives me a reason to drop in periodically to see my daughter and make sure she continues to thrive. That’s what I call a win-win!

Mercel Meredith-Ault is a member of the UMass Amherst Parents Advisory Council and parent of a first-year student.