As parents, you have been listening to your student for almost 20 years. Although you likely know your student better than anyone else, many changes will take place during the college years. Not seeing your student on a daily basis will impact how your student talks to you—and how you need to listen. Since you'll do most of your communicating via phone, here are some tips on listening from afar:

Be encouraging

  • Try to convey interest, no matter how simplistic or mundane the topic is. If your student called home, they want to connect with you.
  • Try not to agree or disagree with your student.
  • Be patient and try not to interrupt.
  • Ask open-ended questions such as, "Can you tell me more…?"

Ask clarifying questions

  • Ask questions to gather more information and better understand your student's point of view.
  • Ask open-ended questions such as, "When did this happen?" Restate what you hear.
  • Restate basic ideas and facts to show you are listening and understanding what is being said.
  • Concentrate on hidden emotional meanings.
  • Ask questions such as, "So you would like your roommate to stop eating your snacks?"

Reflect on what was shared

Reflect on your student's basic feelings to show that you understand what they are telling you. Don't assume to understand. Think about what is not said. Help your student evaluate their own feelings by reflecting on what they shared. Make statements such as, "You seem very upset." This will reassure your student that you understand and support them.

Summarize the important pieces

Restate the major ideas expressed, including feelings, to help your student establish an action plan. Help your student sort out the important aspects of the conversation, without diminishing their feelings. Make statements such as, "These seem to be the key things you expressed…"

Validate thoughts and feelings

Acknowledge the value of your student's feelings. Try to keep your own emotions from interfering with your ability to listen openly. You don't have to agree in order to be a good listener. Express appreciation for your student's efforts and actions, even if they seem minimal. This will remind your student that they have a cheering section—even if it is far away. Make statements such as, "I am happy you called home to talk this through with me…" Chances are, they'll do it again next time there's something on their mind.

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