This month parents all over the country have been saying so long to their kids leaving for college. But is it really goodbye? For this generation, the answer is not at all.
Read the last 5 Minutes for Books on Lauren Shockey's Four Kitchens.
Parents and their young adult kids are more connected than ever due to the immediacy of cell phones and e-mail. The parental expectation that they should be able to reach their child at any time, usually established in high school, doesn’t change much as teens go to college, observe Barbara Hofer, a Middlebury College psychology professor, and journalist Abigail Sullivan Moore. The authors’ immensely readable The iConnected Parent: Staying Close to Your Kids in College (and Beyond) While Letting Them Grow Up shares their extensive research from 2005-06, including data on student/parent communication at a large university and a smaller liberal arts college.
When you see this information, however, you might ask, “Who are these people?...Who has an average of 13 contacts per week via phone and e-mail?” It may seem excessive, but when pressed, the students recalled that daily chat with Mom while they were on the way to class, or Dad’s phone call each day on the way home from work. Add in a few e-mails, and 13 doesn’t seem so high anymore.
Today, parents are more involved with their children’s education, from elementary school throughout college. Many parents actually fill out their kids’ college applications, so why is it so surprising that they are still involved in such collegiate activities such as selecting a major, registering for courses and editing papers?
Hofer and Moore take on these dilemmas in the book and ask, “How do the electronic apron strings affect teens’ development as independent adults?” They also delve into the following:
• The ethical ramifications of parents being over-involved in their children’s schoolwork.
• The delayed maturation into adulthood that occurs when parents make all the decisions.
• The lack of motivation new students have to connect with others because it’s so easy to “run home” electronically.
• The lack of confidence that results in not practicing decision-making skills.
• Ways to lend support but encourage young adults to make their own decisions.
• What to do when you suspect something is seriously wrong with your college student, academically or emotionally.
My parents fostered an independent spirit in my sister and me, and once I went off to college, I took ownership of that experience. I have always considered independence a trait to be nurtured, but with a 13-year-old daughter who is already trying to put some distance between us, I have to admit that reading about the close ties that are common to this generation puts a more positive spin on this new way that parents and kids interact.
While I’ve typically criticized over-parenting, I have seen room for development in myself. Upon reading The iConnected Parent, I recognized my tendencies to control. With my adolescent daughter, I’ve had to acquiesce on occasion when she thinks that her way is the best way. Sometimes I disagree, and I often fight her, but now I see the dangerous web of codependency that I might be creating. I’d rather make some changes in the way we interact now, so that she will feel empowered to make her own decisions later.
Anyone interested in how our digital age is affecting this off-to-college social culture will enjoy this easy-to-digest analysis of this particular research study. An enlightening read for parents and teens.
Jennifer Donovan has been reviewing books online for over four years—and reading ever since she can remember. As a child, she favored realistic fiction, and she is still drawn to the stories of people's lives found in memoir and in character-driven fiction. Jennifer has been managing editor at 5 Minutes for Books since she launched the site in 2008 with the goal of providing diverse content meant to encourage people of all ages to read.