It’s been happening all over the country the last couple of weeks – parents wondering how to stay in touch with their kids now that they have left home for school or a job. Although it can feel scary at times, here are some tips on using tech to stay connected.
If you don’t know how to use your cell phone to send a text or receive a picture, you might want to sit down with a phone specialist and learn how. Short texts and pictures can be sent through the cellular phone network even when no internet connection is available. These brief messages, pictures of a loved one or favorite pet from home can do a lot to brighten the spirit of a kid who might be a little homesick.
If you’re not close enough to visit, you can use your computer and webcam to video-chat with your child using video conferencing applications like Google+ (pronounced Google Plus) hangouts, Skype or Facetime. Most of the video-chat applications allow users to chat using mobile devices like a smartphone or tablet, making them even more convenient for family get-togethers. You could even set up your own video conference so that grandma, grandpa, aunts, uncles, siblings and others can join in and have a big group meeting on special occasions. Using this connectivity, your child won’t miss Grandma’s birthday celebration even though she won’t be able to make it back home for the event.
The great things about email is its versatility – messages can be short or long, include pictures or other attachments, and are often transmitted free to an Internet connection anywhere in the world. You can even send email from apps on your phone. Have a talk with your child before she goes off to school to find out what email address she wants you use and how often she plans to check that account. It is likely that she has a number of email accounts and having some understanding of how she uses them will help you understand what to expect in terms of return mail from her. One of the greatest benefits of communicating through email as opposed to regular mail is that it is fast and it is free.
Letters and Care Packages
Technology is great for helping keep us connected to our children who have gone out into the world, but nothing beats the excitement of opening up a package from home. There’s also something to be said about opening an envelope to find a hand written note from mom or dad with a drawing from a little brother. If you like, you can even use online retailers to send picture post cards, or themed care baskets and packages to your child for exams, holidays or special occasions. Throwing in a gift card for groceries or gas never hurts either. Including a self-addressed, stamped envelope, could be just the hint needed to get her to write you back.
If your child is old enough to be leaving home, it is likely she has a social media account through Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Google+, StumbleUpon, or Pinterest. “Following” or “friending” your child can help you stay up-to-date on what your child is doing and the things that interest her. Following your child on social media can open up avenues for conversation and help you stay connected. But don’t be surprised if your child chooses not to accept your friend request or blocks you from seeing some activities. Some young people might not be comfortable with Mom liking or commenting on every post on Facebook, or Dad being able to sift through a photo blog of activities and online life on Instragram. If your child does allow you to follow or friend, be conscious that the responses you make to pictures, comments, or posts are often visible to others as well. If you want to stay connected in this way, it’s usually a good idea to keep most of your comments to yourself.
Letting go of your child who is growing up and moving out may be hard, but technology allows you to stay in touch easier than ever before. If possible, communicate with your child beforehand to determine what methods each of you is most comfortable with. Send a text message each day for encouragement, or set up times to face-to-face chat through Skype on a set day and time each week.
And try to send a care package occasionally via snail mail. Don’t forget that no technology replaces a real life, in-person visit and hug!
Covert Defender Kate B. reports from a super-secret location as part of the Geek Squad Online Remote Support Quality Assurance Team and leads Geek Squad’s Yahoo! Answers Partnership.