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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

“Students want freedom, parents want control”

For many, Family Weekend here at the UA will be a relation celebration. It will be a chance for students to get a free meal or two from their parental patrons. It will give those genetic donors an opportunity to take pictures they can hang up at work to make Karen in accounting (whose kid lives at home and went to a community college) slightly uncomfortable. Heartwarming stuff, really. But for a select yet visible minority, Family Weekend will be little more than a string of calls, visits and interruptions from overprotective, over-involved moms and dads who haven’t quite figured out that their “”Bobby and Suzy High School”” have finally become “”Robert and Suzette College.””

For many parents and students who had a close and happy relationship during their time at home, the appropriate adjustment of boundaries has not quite come with the student moving away from home and living on their own. 

So let’s take a look at exactly what defines boundaries, and some simple criteria you can use to determine which boundaries you’ve set with your family that might need some adjustment. In an article posted on MentalHelp.net, psychologist Mark Dombeck defines boundaries as  “”constructed of ideas, perceptions, beliefs and understandings that enable people to define not only their social group memberships, but also their own self-concepts and identities.””

Boundaries change rapidly as students move away from home, adjust to the social atmosphere of college and begin to develop themselves as people. As a result, many of the habits of communication between parents and children that were acceptable only a few months ago may have now become an infringement on that student’s burgeoning sense of identity. Frequent phone calls, e-mails or texts may have been normal in high school, but as a student begins to fill his time in a way which pleases his own sense of self, those check-ups may quickly be perceived as hovering.

Parents who visit (or require their student to make trips home) often may find themselves with increasingly difficult offspring, as students whose time was once consumed with structured school and extra-curricular activities schedules finally have the opportunity to manage their entire lives themselves. Chances are they weren’t planning a biweekly visit from mom and dad into their new social schedule.

So what’s a loving, yet struggling-with-boundaries family to do?

It’s actually pretty simple. Each side needs to do its best to communicate and understand the position of the other party. Students, you’re finally away from home and making decisions for yourself. Congratulations. But let’s be honest, you’re barely an adult now and many of those conclusions about  “”how life is”” are being developed from a vantage point of ignorance.  That’s what your parents are for — to give you some information on how the world has actually worked for the past four to five decades and let you draw the trends yourself.

Understand that your parents are terrified because they can’t monitor your life any more, and they’ve seen dozens of episodes of CSI and cable news where young, promising co-eds are slain by drunk drivers and/or dudes with hooks. If you can communicate a specific issue, why their behavior bothers you and how they can achieve the same outcome through a different method, they will probably be more receptive to that than your shoulder shrugs and temper tantrums at Chili’s.

Parents, you’ve finally gotten your children out of the house and on the track to independence. Congratulations. But remember how awesome it was to broaden your horizons when you finally made it out of the house, and try to be sympathetic to the small sense of identity your child is beginning to cultivate. Do your best to explain your advice in a clear and reasonable manner. Phrases like “”because I’m your mother/father”” lack the rhetorical power they once held. To be blunt, it may become a source of resentment between you and your children if they view those phrases as your cop-out for respecting their intelligence and treating them like the adults they already think they are.

So just be honest. If their behavior on the phone is bratty and makes you feel like you aren’t being appreciated for your love and hard work, just say it straight. Students will naturally begin to take on the mantle of adulthood, responsibility and tons of other noble nouns, but not before they feel like they’re being treated like adults.

— Remy Albillar is a junior majoring in English. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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