Book Review: The iConnected Parent Staying Close to Your Kids in College (and Beyond) While Letting Them Grow Up

For parents who don’t know how to stay involved with their college student, “The iConnected Parent” guides parents in building this connection by creating close communication and strong relationships. The authors—Abigail Sullivan Moore, a New York Times journalist, and Dr. Barbara K. Hofer, a researcher and psychology professor—provide information from a real data and professional research conducted at Middlebury College and University of Michigan. This book is a mixture of information and advice from professionals and parent experiences about how to stay connected while giving their children own space to grow up.  

Research shows that parents and students are communicating more than ever before. Hofer and Moore found that families communicated with their college students 13.4 times a week on average. Similarly, at RIT, we have found that 96% of parents communicated with their student at least once a week. Technology, including emails, text, snap chat, and video calls, has changed the way parents interact with their college students. One question I had after learning these statistics was what are they talking about? I decided to ask some freshmen students studying at RIT about their communication with their parents. They agreed about the frequency of communication found in the research and said that most of the time they call when something happens at school, to discuss with their parent the last thing they did in their daily life, or for help making decisions.

The authors encouraged parents to have conversations with their freshmen students and to set time to catch up. Parents can be involved in their college student’s life in a number of ways, including encouraging them to choose a major and guiding their search for an internship. Parents are often able to provide helpful advice on these topics, however, parents need to know how to make their student feel in control. The research shows that the more parents tried to help their children, the less independent the student became. I agree with what the authors said in chapter 11: “if you are reading this as a high school parent, consider now how to begin preparing your child for the independence of college.” I believe that the best thing parents can do is to help their students become more organized through teaching them how to manage their own time while doing homework, activities, and studying for exams in high school.

Hofer’s survey and Moore’s interviews with parents of Middlebury students found that there are some cultural forces that drive many parents to feel that they are closer to their students than their parents were with them. Some of these cultural forces are having fewer kids, attending sports practices, the increase of college tuition, and worries from what’s happening around them which give the feeling that their children are not safe. The book says, “the ideal situation is to stay involved in your children’s life, but not to the extent that you live too much in their life and not enough in your own.” The authors advise parents to allow their students to develop their own lives but still remain connected. As a parent and as graduate student researcher, I believe that students have fewer opportunities to develop when their parents intervene too frequently, which can affect the student’s education and life. I encourage the parent to stay connected, but not too much, because the college period is the time when students should begin learn how to be in charge and responsible. 

The communication revolution has increased communication during college between students and their parents, and this book argues that this increased communication continues following graduation. Students who were in touch with their parents 13.4 times per week during college increased to 16.7 per week after college with an average of 17.9 for females compared to 14.6 for males. Connections after college were usually related to a career search. The study showed that, of the parents who are involved in their child’s career search, 33% of parents help their children in their resumes and 25% look over cover letters. 

For students with disabilities, Hofer and Moore provide information about the change of the federal law IDEA (The Individuals with Disabilities Education) which requires education and services for every child with disability under 18.  After high school, the law that provides support is ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), which recommends students become their own advocate. Parents should understand the difference between high school and college and guide their student to ask for support services or accommodations and to let them know where to go in case they face any problem.

The authors give advice for parents regarding their student’s mental health, learning issues, and medical concerns in college including the following recommendations: 

  • Talk with your student before college about mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
  • Have open discussions about the issues of alcohol and substance abuse.
  • Listen carefully to what your child is talking about and the way they are saying it.
  • If parents had a college experience, it would be great idea to share with your child your college struggles and worries (or, for those without a college experience, experiences at a new job).

I suggest this well-written book for all parents that have children in high school or college and want to learn how to create good relationships and close communication during the college years. The real-life experiences of parents, students, and professionals let us explore and understand why there are different feeling and reactions from both (parents and students) sides during college period. From my experience as a mom of three children, I feel that it’s important for parents to openly communicate with their children. It’s the only way to understand their student and to create a healthy connection which will make it easy for parents to know how they could help their child to develop in a positive way. I also encourage parents to engage their children beginning in high school in decision making in order to build the skills that can help them develop during the college years. Technology makes it easy to build strong relationships between parents and their students which make the college experience different and easier for both of them. Hofer and Moore advise parents to learn how to use communication technology to stay connected to their college students through phone calls, texting, emails, and Facebook.

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