Keeping in touch while your kids are away at college

Feb 17, 2010 at 3:41 p.m. ET

With so many methods of instant communication, you may be wondering how -- and how often -- to keep in touch with your child when he goes off to college. Whether you're the "cool mom" who is friends with your kid on Facebook, or you don't know a tweet from a text, here are tips for staying connected without hovering.

Mom keeping in touch

Experts agree that leaving for college is a transition not only for kids, but for parents, too. Setting clear boundaries while giving your child the freedom she needs to adjust to college life -- along with keeping the lines of communication open -- are important to you both.

Staying connected to your child

Dr. Ian Birky, director of counseling and psychological services at Lehigh University, offers this advice:

"Set up some sort of structure for staying in contact. Whether it's a once-a-week phone call or a daily email, parents will feel better knowing that they'll have some sort of ongoing contact with their child. Students should also let parents have the name of another person -- a friend, trusted advisor, coach -- who they could call to help contact their child in the event of an emergency."

I just called to say "I Love You"…

"If the only contact a parent has is a tearful phone call at three in the morning, that's the image left in the parent's mind until she hears to the contrary," says Birky. "But it's very likely that the whole circumstance changed overnight, and the student has forgotten about it. That doesn't mean they shouldn't call their parents for emotional support; just don't make that the only time you talk to them," he says.

Some parents prefer a short chat rather than nothing at all, like Ann G., mother of two children who attend different out-of-state colleges. "A quick text is all it takes," she says. "Letting them catch you on the fly means you'll hear from them more often."

Embrace technology

Melanie B. thought she was too old for Facebook, but her daughter proved her wrong. "Of course, she had to set it up for me," she says. "It is a great way to see pictures of her and her new friends, and see what she is up to."

Gail K. is a mom who's as tech savvy as her kids but never thought she needed to learn about video chatting. "It was such a great way to stay connected -- to see that she looks good and healthy -- that I embraced that, too."

The "old fashioned" rule still applies

It's so easy to keep in touch that care packages may seem out of style, but moms and even experts disagree. Melanie B. sends packages not only to her daughter, but also to her daughter's roommates and other friends who have gone away for college.

No matter how -- or how often -- you choose to keep in touch with your child, llet her know how you're feeling, too. Going away to college is a transition for parent and child, but it's a journey you both can enjoy.