By Kathryn Flippin
Do you ever wonder how much your parents really think about you while you are away at college? Do you wish they would not call every five minutes or try to find out everything about your life from your roommate or wish they would try to be more a part of your life — even if you are 500 miles away?
Many students experience these thoughts while in college, especially when trying to figure out what a relationship looks like with parents after high school.
We have always known we would cross a line when we hit age 18. It came with more privileges, more responsibility and more freedom. With all of these combined, we should have known expectations and misconceptions from our parents would come with it.
One of the biggest trends I have seen as a resident adviser is that students want to know more about maintaining a good relationship with their parents.
Parents do not magically know how to relate to their children as adults. There is no secret formula to this process. Letting them know that you can take care of yourself and that you have a life is difficult.
After thinking about this, I talked with one of my Residence Life directors, who suggested I look at a self-help resource found at the University of Texas at Dallas. Reading through some of their tips made me realize this is a universal issue that does not get talked about often.
Some of the advice I gleaned from it was that relationships with your parents can change through effective communication, dealing with conflict and just plain interaction.
The following are a few steps I put together from advice, research and observations I have noticed.
First, think about interaction. Be proactive and invest time in your parents now. Doing so can make your life easier in the long run.
Realize you are not the only one growing and learning. Your parents are losing a bird from their nest. Whether you are the first in your family to go to college or the last, your family will change as a result of you leaving.
Also, think about the communication you have with them. Try to understand life from your parents’ perspective. A little empathy goes a long way.
Know they have anxieties and fears about the shift in your life as well as in their own.
One of the best ways to calm their fears and also yours is to talk directly and openly with your parents about what you have learned. Know that they will wish to contribute advice and allow them to.
It can be difficult, though, to hear opinions, especially when students disagree with their parents.
Whether you are caught in the middle of a nasty divorce — the divorce rate for couples divorcing later in marriage, especially with a college-aged child, doubled in the last 20 years, according to Bowling Green State University — or are battling with your parents over what type of job you will get, who you will marry or where you will end up, know that you have options.
Now that you have crossed that fine line over into adulthood, you should have the privilege to be treated as an adult. Remind your parents of that. You may not want to discuss everything with them or vice versa, but let them know what is “too much” or “too little.”
Especially in the event of divorce, focus on what you need to know for your plans, not on information that is properly in the private domain of your parents.
Last, remember parents will likely approach your newfound adulthood similarly to how their parents approached theirs. Learn about the difficulties your mother or father had during this time. What did their parents do or say that was helpful or unhelpful? Learning this history can be useful in understanding your parents’ attitudes.
These are just some things I have seen and studied that could be helpful when you have those frustrating conversations with people who should understand you the most.
I know in my personal experience, miscommunication is what leads to conflict most of the time. I try to be as honest as I can with my own parents, and you might be surprised at how much that works in maintaining a good relationship with them.