As much as I love going home for the summer, it seems I am running back to Loras quicker every fall. My returning to school doesn’t seem to get any easier for my mother. It feels like she still doesn’t trust me and is back to texting me several times throughout the day. She even got a tracker on my phone when we renewed my plan this year. She claims it’s because I live in a sketchy neighborhood. Am I crazy, or is it okay that I am 21 years old and my mother still needs to be in touch with me 24/7?
Signed, Trying to Cut the Cord
As Ova Bearing, a helicopter parent in last week’s faculty/staff play, I feel more than qualified to answer this question! The fact that I have 24 years of experience as a counselor and 17 years of experience as a parent helps too, of course. This question seemed fitting for this week since I have already talked with several of you who are feeling like victims to your parents “over-parenting.”
Let me first just say, your parents likely love you very much. Consider yourself blessed. As a parent myself, I do not fault parents for the tendency to want to influence the choices of their children when one of their birds leaves the nest. It is a transition for them as much as it is for you. With that being said, however, it is okay to set some boundaries.
If you have a parent that you feel is crossing the line in terms of wanting to know everything going on in your life, my first suggestion is to sit down and have an honest conversation with them. As the child, that might start like, “I appreciate that you care about me” or “These are some ways that you can stay involved in my life.” As the parent, one might say, “How do you want this to go?” or “How can I support you?” That, to me, is an incredibly important conversation for parents and children to have as they head off to college. Since you are obviously already here, you may use the ever so popular “I” statements to get your point across. Say something like, “I’m hurt that you don’t trust me,” or “I’m so busy at school that it would work better if we picked a time to talk each week.”
If you don’t get anywhere with a conversation about wanting some space and earning trust, consider why your parents seem to want such a connection or influence over you. Do you need to assert yourself more because you are too much of a pleaser? Do you seem to still make decisions that lack thought and bring on negative consequences? Do your parents still pay for everything which may imply that they should be able to make decisions for you? You are a grown-up now. Act like it, and hopefully they will treat you like it. You are an adult, so if you seek more independence, you might have to give some thought to thinking more about your actions or taking on your own expenses.
It’s important to stay connected with family, but college is a time for you to spread your wings, take on more responsibility and trust yourself. It’s okay to disagree with your parents and want to assert your independence. Doing it respectfully and lovingly will keep the relationship intact.