College: Independence, freedom and … parents?

Anna Duszkiewicz

The big day was here at last: Move into the dorm, get away from parents and taste independence. Freshman elementary education major Wendy Wygant could barely contain her excitement — until, much to her annoyance, her mother began to arrange all her things where she wanted them and nagged her about where she should eat on campus.

“College is an opportunity to be more independent,” Wygant said. “When someone is telling you what to do all the time, you can’t experience (that) independence.”

Sheethal Reddy, assistant clinic director at the psychological clinic in Kent Hall, said it’s common for parents to have trouble adjusting.

“In a lot of cases parents have a hard time letting go of their kids because college is a time when kids are making important decisions about their lives and careers,” she said. “It can be difficult for parents to step back and let them make those decisions on their own.”

Now that she’s in college, Wygant said she feels like her parents nag at her, wanting to know what she’s doing all the time.

“They’ll encourage me to make friends and ask me if I’m eating enough or if I’m skipping classes,” she said.

“You thought you were away from all that stress of your parents telling you what to do, but that’s not the case (for me),” Wygant said. “It’s really annoying.”

Reddy said parents shouldn’t get too upset when their kids pull away.

“It’s developmentally normal for kids to be pulling away at that age to form their own friendships and social lives,” she said.

Some students’ relationships with their parents have improved since going away to college.

Junior fashion merchandising major Julie Ellul said she talks to her parents a couple of times a day. She said she’s gotten closer to her mother, who has moved farther away since Ellul went to school.

“I think our getting closer has to do with me valuing her more, now that I’m away from her,” Ellul said.

Reddy said some parents have a harder time letting go than others.

“Some parents may take a more active role in making decisions in their child’s life,” she said. “They’re more involved in their child’s life, which will definitely make it harder for them to step back.”

Liz Weaver, sophomore human development and family studies major, said it’s difficult to adjust to living at home on breaks.

“When I go home for break I have to follow my parents’ rules again, and I don’t want to,” she said. “I have to tell them where I’m going all the time.”

Reddy said it can be hard for students to adjust to the home life again after being on their own.

“I would imagine it’s very difficult, because the kids had been on their own, living by their own schedules,” she said, “which may be completely different from what they’re used to at home.”

Weaver said disagreements arise when her plans clash with her parents’ wishes.

“Sometimes I want to go out, and they don’t want me to,” she said.

This is common.

“It’s not unheard of for parents and kids to have conflicts in terms of schedule and responsibilities once they go back into the home environment.”

Wygant said she often argues with her mother about her choice of major.

“I’m thinking about changing it to theater,” she said. “(My mom) says that it’s impossible to get a good job with a theater degree.”

Reddy said it’s difficult for kids to understand what their parents are going through because they don’t have kids themselves.

“Try to put yourself in the shoes of your parents,” Reddy said.

She said kids should be understanding and try to communicate with their parents about how they’re feeling.

“I want to be a performer in the future,” Wygant said, “so I feel the need to express my opinions to (my mom) about that.”

“If you feel like your parents are pushing too much on you, communicate those feelings to them,” Reddy said.

Contact features reporter Anna Duszkiewicz at [email protected].