Archive for Friday, July 27, 2001

Children need preparation for all aspects of college

July 27, 2001

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Our son will be leaving for college next fall. Is there anything we can do to help ease the transition from home to dorm life?

For starters, author Joan Wester Anderson suggests that you make sure that your teen has the basic skills necessary to survive dorm life. Can he operate a washer and dryer, stick to a budget, handle a checkbook, get along with roommates and manage his time wisely?

It's important as well to prepare your son for the negative aspects of campus life. Too often, adults present a rosy portrait of college as "the best years of life," which creates unrealistic expectations that lead to disappointment.

Remind your son that homesickness is to be expected, and that he can call home collect anytime, just to chat. At a dime a minute after working hours, the costs of telephone usage should be within everyone's reach financially.

During the first semester away, letters and treats from home can ease the pain of separation anxiety. And be pleasant when that young man returns for visits. If he feels like an intruder, he just might decide to visit someone else's home for future vacations.

Going away to college is a milestone for those who embark on that journey. With proper planning, it can be a positive time of growth for the whole family.

If power is so important to teen-agers, then it must play a key role in family dynamics. How does it work itself out at home?

You've asked a very perceptive question. It is a wise parent who knows intuitively how to transfer power, or independence, to the next generation. That task requires a balancing act between two equally dangerous extremes.

Parents dare not set their teen-agers free before they are mature enough to handle the autonomy even though they are screaming for it. Adolescents still need parental leadership, and parents are obligated to provide it that's the law of the land.

One of the characteristics of those who acquire power too early is a prevailing attitude of disrespect for authority. It extends to teachers, ministers, police officers, judges and even to God himself. Such an individual has never yielded to parental leadership at home. Why should he or she submit himself to anyone else?

For a rebellious teen-ager, it is only a short step from there to drug abuse, sexual experimentation, running away and so on. The early acquisition of power has claimed countless young victims by this very process.

On the other hand, there is an equally dangerous mistake to be avoided at the latter end of adolescence. We must not wait too long to set our young adults free. Self-determination is a basic human right to which every adult is entitled. To withhold that liberty too long is to incite wars of revolution.

My good friend Jay Kesler observed that Mother England made that specific mistake with her children in the American colonies. They grew to become rebellious "teen-agers" who demanded their freedom. Still, she refused to release them and unnecessary bloodshed ensued.

Fortunately, England learned a valuable lesson from that painful experience. Some 171 years later, she granted a peaceful and orderly transfer of power to another tempestuous offspring named India. Revolution was averted.

At the risk of being redundant, let me summarize our goal as parents: First, we must not transfer power too early, even if our children take us daily to the battlefield. Mothers who make that mistake are some of the most frustrated people on the face of the Earth.

On the other hand, we must not retain parental power too long. Control will be torn from our grasp if we refuse to surrender it voluntarily. The granting of self-determination should be matched stride for stride with the arrival of maturity, culminating with complete release during early adulthood.

Sounds easy, doesn't it? We all know better. I consider this orderly transfer of power to be one of the most delicate and difficult responsibilities in the entire realm of parenthood.

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