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Am I being a bad parent... by asking my older kids to contact me more often?

One reader is wondering how to keep communication lines open with her college-age kids.

Image: Shutterstock/silverkblackstock

EACH WEEK IN our series, Am I Being A Bad Parent?, we hear from a reader who can’t figure out what to do about a tricky parenting situation.

To get a balanced view, we put the dilemma to a group of Irish parents, keeping things anonymous to encourage honest answers.

Having kids fly the nest is never easy, and wanting them to have their own independence while still being involved in their life is a struggle many parents face.

This week, one reader is wondering if she’s asking too much of her children who are away in college to ring her more often.

Have a parenting question you’d like some other mums and dads to weigh in on? Let us know anonymously here!

This week’s dilemma

Two of my children are away in college and the third will be going next autumn. Talk about a ‘car crash’ feeling when the kids you have devoted your life to, cared, protected and worried about for years suddenly walk out the door! I’m still devoted, care and worry about them and I always will – I’d just love if they communicated a bit more to let me know what’s going on in their lives and in college. I feel like a bit of a pesterer and an annoyance if I ring or message them. They’ll be home this week for Christmas – am I being unreasonable to ask them to contact me more often or should I leave it up to them to ring whenever?

Our anonymous readers’ responses

You’re not being unreasonable, but don’t point fingers. I’d suggest making your kids part of the solution. What about agreeing on a time each week that works for you both, and designating that as time for a phone call or FaceTime? That way everyone’s accountable and you won’t feel like you’re pestering them by picking up the phone. Also, there is a lot to be said for setting up a family WhatsApp group or Facebook Messenger thread. It really helps to keep up that ongoing connection when family members are living in different houses, cities or countries.

No, you’re not being unreasonable. How about having a chat with them and saying that you don’t want to be always pestering them, so would it make sense to set up a call once a week to check in and chat about what’s been going on? That way the expectations are clear and there’s a benefit to them too (ie you’re not on at them the whole time). You could also look at other ways you can spend time together in a way that everyone enjoys. For example, if you have the money, could you visit them and take them out for a meal?

You’re being a bit unreasonable. My oldest left for college in September and he rarely gets in touch unless we contact him first. But that doesn’t mean he’s not happy to hear from us or to chat and message when we get in touch! Don’t think of yourself as pestering just because you’re the one always calling or texting first, it’s very common with kids at the college stage and it’s likely that your kids would be put out if they didn’t hear from you very often. Keep the faith that they’ll likely get better about keeping in touch as they get older.  It’s also good to remind yourself that you’ve done a good job raising them if they were happy and independent enough to leave home and get on with their own thing.

You’re not being unreasonable, but take this as a learning curve. If you say “call me more” it could sound like nagging and a chore, but why not show your vulnerability and say, “I love and miss you a lot, and I’d love to hear more about your life. In the new year could we set up a weekly time that I call you?” With the child that’s still at home, start planting seeds of regular time alone together so when they leave they’ll want to maintain that habitual connection. Be mindful and think of it as a date between friends and make a pact with yourself not to bring up things they have to do/chores they haven’t done/rooms that haven’t been tidied!

So what’s the final tally? Is this reader being unreasonable?

No – 3

Yes – 1

Have a parenting question you want answered? Let us know anonymously in our survey here and we’ll put it to the real-life experts: your fellow mums and dads.

Want to win a hamper packed with deliciously indulgent Lindt chocolate? Enter here – and don’t forget to subscribe to our Family Newsletter below!

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