Many of our students travel a significant distance to study at IWU. We know long-distance parenting can be hard, so we asked a few parents and students how they stay connected “from a distance.” Check out what they said below!
1. Use technology to stay in touch
Technology has opened doors for creative communication. While telephone calls are still the most popular way to chat, other options provide unique opportunities to connect.
Many families use video chat apps and programs to stay in-touch. By scheduling aconvenient time for everyone, the whole family can connect each week. Facetime, Skype and Duo are a few of the programs that are available.
Another family shared about a group text that includes the entire family—even the siblings that are at home or attending other universities! This particular family usually texts several times a day. Sometimes the student responds, sometimes not, but it helps the entire family to feel connected.
2. Support them from home
Is your student involved in athletic, musical or theatrical performances? From far away, it is hard to attend each performance in person. One way to “attend” each event is by watching a live stream on social media outlets, such as Facebook and Instagram. Encourage your student to ask a friend in the audience to put the performance on a live stream for you to watch.
Another place to connect with IWU’s community and other parents is the Parent Connection—a Facebook page just for IWU parents. Additionally, if your student is an athlete, your student’s team may have social media pages on Facebook and Instagram, where you will be able to view posts about the team members and their games.
3. Help them figure out plans for breaks
Over short breaks where campus does not fully close, food service hours change. The best way to know what the special break hours are is to check the portal announcements and food services page on the portal. Encourage your student to ask questions and seek answers. RAs and RDs can be a wealth of knowledge and assistance during these transitions.
Just because your student cannot come home for a break, does not mean they will not see family. Living in a new state can be a great time to reconnect with family members that live close to campus. Help your student know what family members are closest to them by sharing addresses and making introductions. Even having other family members visit for a day is a great way to make sure your student feels connected. One student from California shared how he has been able to visit with his grandparents in Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving while attending IWU.
“Adopted families” can be another great way for your student to feel at home in Marion when they are far away. Many local churches have “adopt-a-college-student” programs. Roommates and friends are also a great source of finding a home away from home. Going home with friends will allow students to experience a new place and make some memories.
4. Send a piece of home
Mail is a great physical touchpoint that remind students of home. Letters, cards and care packages are extremely significant to a student living away from home, and a hand-written note can change your student’s entire day.
Some newspapers will deliver to campus, which can help your student remain connected to the community they grew up in. If you see an article in your newspaper that you think would be important to your student, cut it out and drop it in an envelope. Encourage your student to follow local news outlets on social media, so they do not feel like they are missing out on important events and topics.
Although IWU has a diverse selection of food options on campus, nothing will ever quite taste as good as “home cooking made with love.” Do you have a special holiday treat or secret cookie recipe? Send your student a box of baked goods to give them a taste of home. Perhaps your hometown has the best salsa in the country. Package it up and send it to campus.
Indiana may have different seasons, plants, rocks and leaves from your student’s home state. Consider sending them something that will remind them of home. Something as simple as a leaf from their yard is a great way to say hello and that home is still there. Even something as simple as sending a picture of the family pet will make your student smile.
5. Encourage your student to connect with a local church
As mentioned earlier, local churches can provide that “home away from home.” It is a wonderful way to find a place to serve and have a church family.
Getting involved in the community is another way for your student to feel at home in Marion. Nothing makes you feel more at home in a new place than to connect with the community and establish new relationships.
What do you do to connect with your student from a distance? Let us know in the comments below!