Today is the last instalment of The Freshman’s Guide to College, and we’re finishing by talking about how to maintain relationships with family and friends after you move away.
Everything we’ve talked about so far has been strictly about your new life at college, but what about the people we leave behind? It’s equally just as important to stay in contact with your family as it is to make new friends. Your family is always going to be there for you, and if we’re honest, unless you end up working in the same place as your college friends they’re probably not.
Friends are important, too! Your friends from high school know a part of you that your college friends will never truly understand. Your experiences in high school and the world you grew up in has become a part of your past, but those friends understand that part of your life like no one else will can.
Now, I’m not saying that you need to keep in contact with everyone you’ve ever met, but rather to maintain relationships with the people who were closest to you in high school. In my opinion, it’s important to remember where you came from, so here are my tips for staying in contact with family and your best friends that are now living far away!
Schedule in specific catch up time
First things first: you have to actually be in contact to maintain a relationship. It’s so easy to let things slip, until next thing you know you haven’t talked to your dad in 3 months! These don’t need to be crazy 3-hour-long Skype calls, either. I’m just talking about taking 20 minutes every now and then to call your mom or sister to just catch up!
Find a time that you normally spend just doing nothing and use that as your catch-up cue! Last year, I used sitting on the bus going home as mine. (If you do this one, though, just learn how to talk quietly on the phone. Otherwise people glare at you.) With friends, this can be harder since you’re both college students now. One of my good friends from Belleville, Grace, and I Skype about once a month and it works for us! This doesn’t need to be all the time–relationships can stay strong with less time communicating as long as you’re communication is based on quality not quantity.
Give them the benefit of the doubt
Your friend is too busy to Skype this Friday? It doesn’t mean automatically that she doesn’t want to be friends anymore and has replaced you. Try not to be hurt–she may be busy with school, or getting really involved in her IVCF group that has a lot of scheduled activities! So just find another time that works for both of you.
On the family topic, remember that this is a really hard transition for your mom and dad. So if your mom is nagging you about safety tips when you’re bussing, don’t get angry at her. Just let her nag, because you know what? It makes her feel better. It’s not that she doesn’t trust you–it’s that this is the first time she’s had to trust you without being able to function as your safety net. Try to step out of your own shoes for a few seconds when you’re talking to family and friends and look at it from their angle, instead.
Related: Keeping up with Dad
Be kind at every opportunity
On the same line of thought, it can be very easy to take out our anger or frustration on those we are closest to. When your mom says something that rubs you the wrong way, it’s easy to blow up over the phone. When you’re visiting friends you haven’t seen since summer and all they want to do is talk about their amazing new college friends, it’s easy to get angry and say something snarky in return. That, however, is not a good way to maintain relationships with those people.
Instead, look for opportunities to show kindness. Do the dishes for your mom when you visit. Send your friends a care package at their college. Drive your little brother to his soccer game when you visit home so your dad can have a break. Look for ways to do nice things for others and you’ll find that your attitude will rest in a much happier place.
Tip for a long-distance friend: send them a care package with special gifts that only she will get! @nplcollege
Remember that you are both starting new lives
That being said, remember that you are independent now. That means that you have the opportunity to create boundaries around the contact that you do have and this is a good thing!
You are busy with school, meeting new friends, and getting used to the craziness that is living with a roommate, so it’s OK to not have as much time to dedicate to everyone. In fact, it may be healthy if you limit quantity contact with some people. With family, for instance, remember that you don’t need to talk to them for two hours every day. Figure out what works for you, and what kind of schedule you can commit to. For me, I talk to my mom quite a bit, but when it comes to busy time at school I say no quite a bit. And that’s OK. That’s not disrespectful, it’s simply taking care of yourself!
With friends, understand that you are going to grow farther apart. You aren’t going to know everything about each other’s lives, since now you both have separate lives. Learn to accept this. Learn that when she makes a new friend, that doesn’t mean she’s replacing you. You’re just both gradually becoming different people. And this is a natural part of life.
It’s OK to draw boundaries when it comes to family and friends, and it helps you both in the end!
Allow them to still be a part of your life
The key to the ability to maintain relationships is to be able to strike a balance between independence and vulnerability. You don’t want to burden your friends and family, but you do want them to be involved.
Instead of only talking to your parents about school-related issues, let them know about that nice guy you met at church last week, or that great girl you’ve made friends with in your English class. When you’re talking to your friends, tell them about the funny things that happened to you that day instead of just reminiscing about what happened in high school.
It can be hard to maintain relationships over a long distance. I hope that these tips can help you, I know that keeping healthy relationships alive with my family and friends has been a big challenge for me personally, but these tips have helped me!
Are you going to college this year? What are you going to do to maintain relationships? Already a college student? What have you found helps?
Enjoy this post? Check out the rest of The Freshman’s Guide to College:
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 1: Back-to-School Shopping
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 2: Choosing your Course Schedule
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 3: Saving on Textbooks
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 4: Making Friends
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 5: Roommates
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 6: Exams
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 7: Packing for College
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 8: Staying Healthy in School
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 9: Time Management
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 10: Staying in Touch with Family and Friends