Negotiating adulthood, how parent/child relationship changes in college

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By Susan Pohorski

The advertisements for dorm room furnishings have started to arrive. It is time to step up preparations to launch your child into college life.

Even students who will be staying home and attending a local community or technical college need to get ready and prepare for what’s ahead. You may not need to buy as much stuff, but there are other activities that will help him/her make the transition. No, two-year college is not like high school. It is not 13th grade. This has implications for both you and your student.

When the child becomes an adult, the parental role changes to more of a guide and mentor providing support and encouragement. However, you should not let your child do whatever they want.

Laurie Borowicz, vice president of student services at Northcentral Technical College, has experienced the transition personally and professionally. She says it is important for parents to recognize their relationship with their child is changing.

“You need to write some new rules, set new boundaries,” she advises. “Sit down and talk about what you can both live with.” Borowicz established school rules and living rules for her children.

One of the rules was: If you maintain a 3.0 grade point average, your parents will pay tuition costs. The performance objective was set so she could back off on keeping tabs on day-to-day activities. This may not be possible for all families, however, you may agree to pay a certain percent of college costs.

While a specific curfew is appropriate for high school students, parents may want to change this rule to require a text message telling you if they are coming home late. This is not so much about controlling behavior as it is about the safety of your student.

“You both need to give each other space,” she adds. “You don’t just flip the switch to change your relationship. It takes time.”

Communication is key. Be sure to have this discussion before emotions flare up.

The transition to college can be difficult for both students and parents. However, with some preparation and discussion, moving into adulthood can be exciting and give students a great sense of accomplishment. Rather than expressing fear and doubt, boost your student’s confidence and express pride in their steps toward independence.

What advice do you have to add?


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