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Answers to Your College Questions

How often should I call my child while she is away at college?

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It’s up to you and your child. The best approach is to listen to your instincts, listen to your child, and discuss expectations. Appreciate that it’s not about the quantity of calls, but the quality.

It’s Too Much Calling If…

You are calling every morning and providing a wake-up call (and yes, this happens more than you would imagine).

You might think you’re helping your daughter get up in the morning, but there are alarm clocks for this. Let’s be honest—you’re really doing it to help yourself get up in the morning. If your daughter answers, you know she’s up and in her bed. But if she doesn’t answer, that’s trouble. But your daughter will always pick up a text—even if she’s not in her bed (I’m not saying whose bed she’s in). Calling every morning isn’t going to help anyone become an independent adult. It’s just going to irritate her roommate and send a message to her that Mom and Dad don’t trust her to get up in the morning.


You are calling an instructor to share that your child is home sick with a cold or flu.

Unless your child is so sick she can’t talk or move, it’s not your job. All it takes is an email or a call from your child to communicate with a professor. When your daughter is in the professional world and she’s sick, will you call her boss? No boss or instructor wants to hear from Mom or Dad. Unless she can’t speak or is in the hospital, there’s no reason to call. And even if she can’t speak, she can type and send an email. Calling for a student isn’t going to make a student a self-advocate or self-reliant—just dependent on you.


You call every night to make sure your daughter is at home, doing homework, and not staying up too late.

I can promise you that your daughter will tell you whatever you want to hear, because telling you the truth isn’t what you want to hear. And that’s just setting her up to not tell you the truth. This is not how you engage her in honest and trusting dialogue.


You call the moment you need technical support, directions, or help locating something that’s lost at home.

Expecting your child to stop everything and give you answers in the moment is an unrealistic expectation. If you need immediate help, call the company’s technical support number (like the rest of us).


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Harlan Cohen is the author of The Naked Roommate series of books and is one of the most widely read and respected syndicated advice columnists for people in their teens and twenties. His column, "Help Me, Harlan!," is distributed by King Features Syndicate. Harlan regularly tours high school and college campuses giving presentations to students, professionals, and parents. He lives in Chicago, Illinois. Follow Harlan on Twitter @HarlanCohen.

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