Some parents add themselves to college packing list

By BETH QUIMBY, Portland Press Herald Writer

"In the old days, parents thought of kids like waffles," says William Damon, director of the Stanford University Center on Adolescence. "The first couple might not turn out just right, but you could always make more. Now many families have only one or two kids to work with, so they focus all their attention and energy on one or two and want them to do well.

During college and the first years after graduation, young adults should be learning to make decisions for themselves and dealing with the consequences. Parents can help or hinder that process. "You have to go from manager to consultant, from onsite supervisor to mentor," says Helen Johnson, coauthor of "Don't Tell Me What to Do, Just Send Money." "You have to let them fail and face those tough situations. It's not easy to do. But if you don't, think about the message you are conveying to your son or daughter—that they're not able to handle their own life."
Stanford University School of Education Web Site

Letting Go

Food for Thought

  • Your sons and daughters are entering a "new phase" of their lives and SO ARE YOU!
  • There is not guidebook or guidelines for moving through these phases of transitions.
  • In these phases, steps toward independence are likely to make parents nervous. Expectations of a once in a lifetime, valued opportunity bring pressures felt by both student and parents.
  • College is not the "calm before the storm". Students are faced with pressures that are part of
    the ongoing process of human experiences.
  • Parents do have some things in common with their sons and daughters. You share some hopes and goals for happiness, success, gaining self-confidence and becoming self-reliant.
  • When students take steps toward these goals it makes parents nervous.
  • Exploration tends to threaten family values. Shifts in behavior and ideas are unsettling and confusing to the most understanding parents.
  • Students' lives can be complex and unsettling because of unrealistic expectations-both theirs and parents.
  • For students, developing independence can be complicated by fears. Especially a fear of how their relationship may change with their parents.
  • Students often develop the false notion that becoming independent means never asking for help.
  • Relationships are critical to learning and growth that takes place during the college years. Students learn that compromise is part of a partnership.
  • Change will occur making adjustments necessary and stress unavoidable.
  • The mind of a worried parent knows no bounds. Imagination may run rampant to explain changes. Don't jump to conclusions about changes.
  • Students may reject the advise of parents. They do appreciate the acknowledgment of their distress. They need a listening ear that doesn't judge. They need someone to be self-confident, who won't crumble when they do.

Moorhead State University Parent Information-



The hardest part is often "letting go." College is part of a student's search for maturity and self-identity. Parents or guardians need to change their style of parenting with their college-age students. Although students still need love and support, the parental figures in their lives need to become less involved.

Minnesota Office of Higher Education

For parents who just can't let their children wander off into the wilds of college life, there is a service on many campuses that will let a parent check in on junior now and again, reports The Christian Science Monitor

The "Hi, Mom!" webcam at Cornell University is mounted on top of Barnes Tower and can zoom in so close on the new freshman that Mom can see whether they have had a recent haircut.

ZD Net Education


So What's the Down Side?

If you have trouble letting go, you may be hindering your child's maturation process. Many students are arriving at college without social or survival skills. They have trouble living with other people and solving their own problems. With their parents always ready to step in, they know little about being accountable for themselves.

Case Western University Parent Resources



Don't Tell Me What To Do, Just Send Money
Helen E. Johnson and Christine Schelhas-Miller

Don't Tell Me What To Do, Just Send Money shows parents how to influence their college student while still supporting their independence. The authors offer valuable insight into the minds of college students and provide parents with simple suggestions for improving communication with their children. Filled with humorous anecdotes and realistic dialogs between parents and students, this comprehensive guide covers a wide range of issues including financial matters, academic concerns, social adjustment, and postgraduate choices.

Maureen Rondy, from Central Michigan University's Academic Orientation staff, coordinated the compilation of this list.


Being a Parent Changes at Every Stage

"In order for parents to enjoy an adult relationship with their grown children, it is important to remain connected throughout the letting go process. With infants, it means responding to their needs promptly. With toddlers, it means letting them try, allowing them to fail, and showing them how to do things over and over again. With school children, it means letting them participate and being there to watch and support them. With teens, it means allowing them to make choices within safe limits and allowing them to experience the consequences of their choices while offering support."2

What does being a parent mean with young adults?

  • Balancing their need to be taken care of Giving your blessing
  • Sharing each other's journey
  • Saying I love you and I am proud of you

UW Oshkosh-A Guide for Parents


Google: parents student college letting go

"Between cellphones, e-mail, instant messaging and text messaging, it's easy to stay in close contact with your college freshman. But should you?

Sure, it's fun, maybe even comforting, when your daughter calls to say she's on her way to her 9 a.m. class and, yeah, it's raining but, hey, not too hard, and, no, she didn't have breakfast but she promises to grab a bagel later.

Later? Later? Do you really want to know that she's going to her $40,000 classes on no fuel?

"That's being involved to an extreme," says Allison Chase Padula, associate dean of student affairs at Roger Williams College in Bristol, R.I.

To parents who are walking through the day with their students - it's called helicopter parenting because of its hovering quality – she has two words: Back off.

"Whatever happened to personal growth? Isn't that part of what they come to college for?" she asks. Let your child figure out for herself that her brain works better with food in her stomach.

But wait, you protest: My daughter called me. That's part of the rub, admits Mary Stuart Hunter, director of the national resource center for the nonprofit First Year Experience. Just because they can be, some freshmen are in touch three, four, or more times a day. This may seem glorious to parents, but it worries Hunter. It's probably taking a student away from fully engaging in campus life.

Padula says, "Sometimes I see a whole string of kids walking by themselves, all of them on the phone, probably to home."

If this is still going on two or three weeks into the semester, wean your student slowly, gently, but firmly, says Hunter. "Refrain from initiating contact yourself. Keep responses polite but brief. Don't always be available. In response to questions, throw it back to him or her, ‘What do you think?,’ so you're channeling your child outward instead of back to you." And, if necessary, be forthright: ‘I love you, I love talking to you, but this much contact isn't in your best interest.’"

For every student who's in contact too much, there's one who doesn't call at all. That may be a sign that he's happy, but it still can be nerve-racking. While it's always better for your student to initiate contact, it's also OK to say, ‘We'd like to hear your voice once a week. What's a good time for you?’"

Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company –Westfield State College Letting Go

Parenting a College-Age Student

Sending a child off to college is a major family event. The young adult who returns after the first year of college is not likely to be same as the one whom you will leave on the first day of orientation. Students are changed by the learning they grapple with, by interactions with new people, and by the developmental tasks appropriate to their age. The literature suggests the following developmental tasks: separation,
  • differentiation and emancipation from the family
  • formation of a sense of one’s own identity
  • examination and clarification of one’s ethical and moral values
  • achievement of the ability to take care of oneself
  • establishment of a satisfactory sexual identity and formation of intimate relationships
  • choice of career or work role

Kalamazoo College Website

Mommy, tell my professor he's not nice!

(Over)involved baby boomer parents - and cell phones - redefine adulthood.

By Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler, Times Staff Writer
Published June 19, 2006

Administrators say they know these parents mean well. But their frequent phone calls and unreasonable demands stunt student development and test the patience of college officials.

"Where parent behavior becomes a challenge for us is when they encourage dependence, and they become too involved because they are afraid their son or daughter will make a mistake," says Tom Miller, a University of South Florida dean of students.