Tom Ross: Learning to let go
June 9, 2012
Steamboat Springs — Parents of this year's crop of soon-to-be college freshpeople have no idea how good they've got it compared with the olden days. And by olden days, I mean BS and BF. That would be Before Skype and Before FaceTime circa 2004 to 2008.
Skype and FaceTime have changed everything in the game of Letting Go. That's the often-painful exercise where parents freely release their offspring to do exactly what they should be doing at age 18, which is confronting life as an independent adult.
When I dropped sonny boy off in August 2004 in a New England town we'd never visited, at a campus more than 2,000 miles from Steamboat that we'd never before set foot on, we knew we wouldn't see each other again until December.
This is the part of this column where I could share an embarrassing anecdote about my son's immersion into college life, but he took to it so thoroughly there's really not much to tell — at least not that I'm aware of. Mostly, we just missed having him in our lives.
Well, all that's changed. Assuming your college kid can fit you in, there's no reason not to have a weekly face-to-face chat via Skype or FaceTime. And if you aren't already taking advantage of the new technology, I can assure you a digital video encounter is much more satisfying than a phone call when campus life gets sticky.
However, there frequently will be times when it is best to sublimate that urge to spontaneously contact your college student (one never can know what is taking place in a dorm room at any given moment) and just plain chill. That's where the book, "Letting Go: A Parents' Guide to Understanding the College Years" becomes vital.
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Authors Karen Levin Coburn and Madge Lawrence Treeger, one a college chancellor and the other a college counselor, have limitless professional experience with parents and students who have a difficult time separating their lives. They also understand the trauma from firsthand experience. The authors get it; the first year of college signals a big transition not only for the students, but also for the parents.
Here's what they have to say in the first chapter of their book: "As our sons and daughters enter these college years, we have to come to terms with their strengths and their limitations. At the same time we realize that we too are at a watershed, entering into a new phase of our lives — growing older.
"We may find ourselves taking a new look at our marriages, or careers — our own limitations. And so as they struggle with a turmoil of conflicting emotions about leaving, we often are flooded with conflicting feelings of our own about being left."
College brings challenges for young adults that go well beyond academics; there are roommates to cope with, dorm food that doesn't agree, homesickness, mononucleosis, the dreaded sophomore slump and solicitations from credit card companies. "Letting Go" also will take you through the stages of maturity that come with sophomore, junior and senior years.
I would loan you my copy of the book, but I have the outdated fourth edition, the one that doesn't take into account for the advent of social media and the ability to have a face-to-face chat on your mobile phone.
And anyway, you can purchase a copy of the book published by Harper Perennial for about $11. If you have emerging adults living away from home for the first time, you shouldn't be without it.
What are you waiting for? It's time to let go and make adjustments in your own life.
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