Art by Ally Armstrong
During college, students find themselves in an environment where the concept of “home” becomes ambiguous. Caught in between the old and new, it is difficult to know what to prioritize: staying in touch with family or forging new friendships here. Regardless if blood is thicker than water, family connections matter.
All too often, however, family connections are the first casualties of students’ busyness. To combat this, students and their families should find creative ways to stay in touch in order to maintain a quality bond.
When making a commitment to keep in touch, mindset matters. Students, including those from local areas, should approach communication with their families similarly to how they would approach a long-distance relationship. This frame of mind may sound odd, but it encourages students to find innovative ways to update their families about their lives. People in a long-distance relationship have to be dedicated to one another; there are no short cuts.
There are many effective and diverse strategies for sustaining distant relationships. While phone calls and Skype calls are two viable options, they can be difficult to fit into a student’s ever-changing schedule.
Two forms of communication that create room for both detail and expressiveness are email and physical mail. These ideas are flexible as well as meaningful. They are becoming increasingly prevalent, according to Lindsey and Julie Mayfield’s article “Six Ways Families Can Stay in Touch Through College,” published Feb. 7, 2012 by US News and World Report. This way, students can be really intentional when giving their families insight into their lives.
Beyond just the medium of communication, there are other elements to keeping in touch that students should keep in mind. The breadth and depth of what is shared matters. It is of utmost importance that people avoid making generalizations when sharing about their day, according to Jo Piazza’s article “How to Make a Long-Distance Relationship Work, According to Experts,” published June 19 by Time.
When vague becomes the default, the quality of the relationship starts to break down. If they skim the surface, students will inevitably find themselves growing apart from their families.
Staying connected with people back home has a positive impact on students’ health. Studies reveal that “social support is related to psychological wellbeing,” according to Alexander Spradlin’s article “The Importance of Staying Connected with Friends and Family,” published Aug. 21, 2011 by Psychology Today. This social support includes the people who are in the students’ immediate proximity, but it should also include loved ones from back home. Therefore, innovative communication goes a long way in promoting good health.
In college, lack of physical proximity and day-to-day interactions with family and friends at home causes relationships to erode. In the absence of moments once taken for granted— shared meals, car rides and simple time spent with loved ones— it is difficult to prevent relational gaps from forming. To combat this, students need to think outside the box.
Creative communication is vital to strong familial relationships. At the very least, variety makes communication more fun. Along with a time of learning and new experiences, college can be an opportunity for students to more deeply cherish ties to home.
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