Chapter 2: Keeping Parents in the Picture

After the last lamp is unloaded from the pile of Amazon boxes and set up in your room–with maybe a few choice words uttered along the way–, you follow your parents back outside to your family car. The trunk is still open from unloading all of your many (some would say too many) dorm necessities and decorations for your first year in college. With the momentous closing of the trunk, you exchange heartfelt goodbyes with your parents, filled with tight hugs, words of encouragement, and maybe even a tear or two for good measure. As the family car pulls away from your very first dorm building, you can’t help but take a deep breath and savor your newfound freedom. Your parents are (seemingly) out of your life for good, and you can’t help but feel a wave of excitement for all of the fun you’re going to have. No parents mean no rules, and no rules mean you can do whatever you want. It’s time to start a new adventure.

Except… that’s not really how it works. Your parents are not gone forever. In fact, they might even be coming back in four weeks for parent’s weekend. Maybe you have plans to see them over a fall break or Thanksgiving weekend. Regardless of how much you see them when your parents send you off to college, it doesn’t stop them from being your parents. For better or for worse, your parents play a significant role in shaping who you are as a person. On a strictly surface level, they feed you, clothe you, and give you shelter. Sometimes they are the ones driving you to and from school or registering you for different activities. They even impact your mannerisms, interests, and personality traits in ways you don’t even realize. Even though they won’t be present in your everyday life anymore, you can work to maintain a good relationship with them while in college. Using the following tips and tricks can help you to form a great bond with your parental guardians while still expressing your freedom in your time away from home.

My first and most important tip is to set a time to call your parents each week. While the average college student has frequent contact with their parents, remembering to do this can be valuable for anyone in college. I strongly recommend doing something like this for a multitude of reasons. It gives your parents an opportunity to know what’s going on in your life. If you have a positive relationship with your parents, it helps you catch up with each other. If you have a less than positive relationship with your parents, this can be an easy way to keep minimal contact with them. If you are a person who enjoys having structure and making plans to keep yourself accountable, regimented meetings such as these every week can even become benchmarks for organizing a schedule, or an exercise in debriefing your week out loud with people who care about you. Weekly phone calls were something that I struggled with at first because I felt completely sucked into my college experience, leaving no room to think about what was happening at home. This is largely because I go to a college that is close to where I live, so I was focused on completely separating my life at home from my life at college. I was afraid that my parents would try to act as if I had never gone to college and were going to expect me to be at home when I didn’t want to be. But by establishing firm boundaries between home and college, I was able to enjoy my time on campus while not feeling bad about coming home once in a while for special events. Now, going to my senior year, I often look forward to reconnecting with my parents. Instead of being a reminder of my home that I wanted to escape, they became an escape from some of my more chaotic times at college. 

One of the downsides to living on your own and away from your parents is that you lack them as a readily available resource. While adjusting to doing everything on your own can be difficult, it is okay to ask for help. Often, parents can become even more eager to help their children with whatever may be concerning them during this difficult transition to independent living at college. However, it can be tempting to abuse this and just ask your parents to do everything for you, like asking them to fill out certain forms when you don’t want to deal with them. This brings me to my next piece of advice, which is to ask your parents to teach you how to do things, not to have them do things for you. While Google can be your best friend for smaller tasks, you can use your parents as a resource for bigger tasks that require more explaining or experience to teach. Using your parents as a resource is important because it forces you to learn how to do the activity yourself instead of having to learn it on the fly when you’re living alone. College is all about learning, so what better time is there to learn life skills than in a safe environment where there are fewer consequences if something goes wrong? And if you’re someone who likes to talk with your parents, this can be another excuse to catch up or learn hilarious stories from when they were learning these life skills. 

In the same way that you don’t want to take advantage of your parents, you also want to make sure that your parents don’t take advantage of you and try to dictate your college experience. It’s no secret that parents today are more involved in their child’s life than ever before. While the ever-inflating price of a college degree may be perceived as a good reason for that, some parents use that as an excuse to control every aspect of their child’s life, from the classes they can take to the places that they can live. This can lead to students going through multiple years of college studying subjects they have no interest in or missing a social life they desperately need. While I acknowledge that every situation is different and that it can be difficult to go against your parent’s requests, I strongly recommend that you work as hard as you can to have a college and independent living experience that is good for you, not one that is strictly good for your parents. One helpful tactic when discussing with your parents about these issues is to not ask what they want but to ask what they are trying to accomplish. Here’s an example: a year ago, my parents asked me for the password to my log in to my portal account in college. I didn’t feel comfortable with my parents being able to go into my account at all times, so I asked them why they wanted access to the account. I learned that they wanted to know my grades at the end of each semester. We were able to come to an agreement that I could find a time to show them my grades each semester, instead of them going in to check themselves. While this won’t work all the time, addressing the root of the issue can help both parties come together towards a better solution. 

At the end of the day, every family is different, and your relationship with your parents is unique to you. Maybe you love to talk to them every day, or maybe you prefer learning how to do things by yourself. Nevertheless, I hope one or more of these tips can be useful to you. If you learn anything from this, it’s that a relationship with your parents is not only worth maintaining but can be invaluable for a great college experience. By the time I was getting ready to start my first semester, I, like many other college students, was basically starting to get sick of my parents. Everything they did and said annoyed me, and I felt like I had to get away from them at all costs. But by the end of the first year, I felt like my relationship with my parents was stronger than ever before. As long as you put in a little effort, happy parents can help you go a long way in both college and beyond.

Speaking of adults and responsibilities, setting dentist appointments are one in the large list of things that you’re going to have to figure out how to manage and afford for yourself. Luckily, Ultimate Dental of Cambridge has your back. You can get up 20% off an appointment with this coupon and a student ID.

By: Lucas Pratt

Lucas Pratt is a senior at Boston College studying Philosophy, English, and Chinese. He enjoys games of all kinds, Dungeons and Dragons, and getting around to finishing the copy of Dune that’s been sitting on his nightstand for months on end. Lucas has decided that the words “employable majors” don’t mean anything to him, and is eagerly seeing where the world takes him in the future.

For over 20 years, the Campus Clipper has been offering awesome student discounts in NYC, from the East Side to Greenwich Village. Along with inspiration, the company offers students a special coupon booklet and the Official Student Guide, which encourages them to discover new places in the city and save money on food, clothing, and services. At the Campus Clipper, not only do we help our interns learn new skills, make money, and create wonderful e-books, we give them a platform to teach others. Check our website for more student savings and watch our YouTube video showing off some of New York City’s finest students during the Welcome Week of 2015.


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