“Mom, dad… I got a tattoo”: How to communicate with your parents in college

My parents and I have an unusually close bond that tends to boggle the minds of my classmates and friends. Maybe it’s because I’m an only child, or maybe my parents are particularly awesome. Maybe I’m just weirdly attached to my parents. I don’t really know.

For a typical teenager, the idea of college revolves around freedom and liberation, especially from parents. Unless you live at home, you are completely on your own at college. Meaning, you can pretty much do whatever the heck you feel like.

Sounds like a dream come true, right?

An illustration of what could go wrong if there is no communication between a student and her parent until tuition is due or she's gotten a tattoo. (Courtesy of LiLMO5513 on flickr.com)

It doesn’t matter whether your parents live 25,000 miles away or 25 minutes away. They are your parents. They aren’t just going to disappear from your life, no matter how much you wish they would sometimes.

The saying goes “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” and it’s true. When you aren’t around someone all the time, your relationship can deepen and grow because the time you do have together is more meaningful and special. Think of the distance as a way to finally connect with mom and dad or strengthen the bonds you already have.

First off, remember that your parents love you and that this is a transition for them too. They aren’t used to not seeing you and not having you in the house. Make sure you call your parents from time to time. Maybe it’s every day. Maybe it’s once a week or every two weeks. Just make sure that you check in with them occasionally.

When I say call, I mean call and have a conversation. I know it’s hard. My mom told me that it wasn’t until college that I started talking to her like a teenager. Try really hard not to get short with your parents when they tell you they miss you or they ask you if you’re sleeping and eating enough. Parents will be parents, after all.

Remember that your parents are used to knowing at least a little of what’s going on in your life, so make sure to include them in this new life of yours. Tell them about your friends. Tell them about the cute girl in your Bio lecture or the hot guy who works at the C4C. Talk to them about classes. Get into discussions. Now that you’re in a higher level of education, teach them something.

Remember also that your parents are a valuable resource. Send them papers that you’re stuck on. Ask them if whites go in cold or hot water. Just because you’re learning to be on your own, doesn’t mean you don’t need help from time to time. It’s okay to tell your parents that you miss them, that you’re homesick, or that you don’t really know what you’re doing.

Parents are constants in our lives, and they love us in our moments of triumph and our moments of failure. It’s okay to call your parents crying. They are our pillars in our moments of weakness.

Maybe you get into trouble, you fail a class, or get an MIP. It’s okay to tell them that too.

The way to build any relationship is through good communication and trust.

As young adults, we tend to fall back into the “my parents don’t understand me” default setting. But actually, they probably know what you’re going through better than anyone else. They’ve been there too. Trust that they know what they’re talking about.

Start small. Tell them something personal. Ask about their experiences when they were your age. They probably have some stories that sound just like yours.

Maybe my relationship with my parents is a little weird, but family is something that slips our minds sometimes. Stick close to your family, because they are going to be there for you. No matter what.

Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Hannah Morrison at Hannah.morrison@colorado.edu.



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