Time to pack up your bags, say the last goodbyes, and get on the road to head to college. It is the day that many high school graduates anticipate with excitement – it is the day they become a little more independent and venture out on their own into the collegiate world. College, indeed, offers a lot of things to look forward to – new friends, new experiences, plenty of socializing and growing up. It is the world that can envelop and overwhelm a new college student and a lot of things and people from the past can be involuntarily put on hold along the way, to let the college experience sink all the way in.
How does a newbie freshman take it all in without forgetting about his or her past? How do the new and the old ways of living coexist without butting heads with each other, without stunning a college student’s emotional and intellectual growth?
The truth is that this growing up experience is a gradual process, even though the transferral process from living at home with parents to living by oneself in a college dorm or an apartment is rather abrupt and sudden. But both parents and students cannot expect things to remain exactly the same once a student is out of his or her parents’ nest and in the real world. In other words, parents cannot expect their children to obey any curfews, to not experiment with alcohol and sex, and to behave exactly the way they did in high school. On the other hand, college students also cannot expect their parents to be completely okay with cutting all the communication ties and letting their children run their lives completely on their own. This transition process has to come from understanding on both students and their parents’ parts – it has to be a two-way street.
There are a few pointers, however, that every college student has to keep in mind as he or she makes that life-altering transition into independent adulthood, while still in college or even while out on his or her own for the very first time:
1. It is unrealistic to expect parents to cut off all ties with their offspring, once they are out of the house. They will still call, still nag and still preach about doing the ‘right thing’ in the face of adversity. Sometimes, it is wise to take the parents advice, or at least pretend to listen. Who knows, sometimes parents can even offer up valuable perspectives, based on their own life experiences.
2. Being proactive and picking up a phone first can be a great way of continuously reminding the parents that their children still think about them. Many parents set unrealistic expectations in terms of the frequency of weekly phone calls they require from their children while they are away in college, for example. It is advisable to negotiate a calling schedule before the major move, while parents and children are still living under the same roof and can come to a sound agreement. Calling a few times a day or even just once a day is an unrealistic expectation, since college students are often too busy soaking in the college experience. Checking in and reassuring the parents once in a while that everything is going okay in their lives, on the other hand, is a healthy expectation and students need to truly uphold the end of their bargain, in order to keep their parents from going completely crazy with worries.
3. Phones calls should not be resorted to money-asking purposes and conversations exclusively. If parents begin to nervously check their bank accounts every time their child phones home, a parent-child relationship becomes significantly strained by the weight of the money. In other words, it is okay for college students and young adults to expect some sort of monetary help, especially if they are attending college, but calling parents for the sole purpose of asking money can quickly spiral into a exploitative practice, which is not beneficial to a student or a parent in a long run.
4. There are many means of connecting with a family, beyond a simple, old-fashioned phone call. With text messaging, instant messaging, emailing and web-camming, all at the tips of a young adult’s fingers, there are almost no excuses to not keep in touch on a regular basis. A quick email takes no more than two minutes and still shows the parents that their child is taking some time to keep them in the loop of things.
5. Keeping in contact with family means going beyond a usual phone conversation. It is important to make time to drive out or fly out and see the family face to face once in a while, even if it is as infrequent as during major holidays. Spending less time under one roof can be an opportunity to leave the usual bickering behind and come together for dinners and weekends as civilized adults. Holidays are also the times where treasured memories are created and bonds are strengthened between adults and their maturing children.
6. Sometimes, life can get crazy, and for a college student that craziness can become almost overwhelming. With balancing new friendships and relationships, classes and homework, paying a credit card bill on time, and other aspects of life, it is wise to remember that a supporting parent is always there to lend a hand. Even when a young adult is striving hard to become independent, the unexpected bumps in the road of life can send a student asking for that extra emotional support. It is okay to show the parents that their kids still need their opinion, advice and loving support from time to time. It is a natural progression of life and, by no means, a regression back to the childhood years.
Time may pass and children may transform into young adults almost overnight, but recognizing these changes and dealing with them appropriately is the best policy in order to allow a healthy parent-child relationship evolve into maturity. If the parents are way too clingy, their kids will eventually grow resentful and will not be as prone to communication. Of course, if the children completely forget their parents’ names the minute they move out on their own, parents will not be able to offer full-hearted support later on in their kids’ lives. It is, truly, a two-way street when it comes to family dynamics, but knowing that an appropriate amount of communication is essential to any relationship is the key to strengthening the parent-child bond, while allowing the children to enjoy their independence at the same time.