Deer Peer Column 2/28/13

Dear Peer,
I am currently a senior finding my independence. I’ve finally found off campus housing with roommates. It’s liberating knowing that I have at least one foot into the real world.  On the other hand, my  mom isn’t treating me like an adult who is assuming responsibilities.  She is probably a thousand miles from me but she’s trying to control every move I make, like I don’t know what to do for myself.  It’s really annoying and frustrating. I’m not sure how to approach her and be on the same level so she’ll understand I’m not a little kid any  more.  I want her to know that she did a good job raising me, but this bird has flown from the nest and is ready to fly through her own experience.  My only fear is that I’ll make her upset, or even worse, she’ll stop talking to me altogether if I get the courage to speak my mind.
Signed, Bird Who Has Flown
Dear Bird,
When we read your letter, every one of the Peer Counselors thought you were talking about us. It’s amazing what a common issue this is for college students:  how to show our parents that we’re no longer little kids who need them to tell us how to live our lives. It’s hard to figure out how to talk about it with parents, without getting defensive or making them defensive.
The point you made about how well your mom raised you might be a good start to easing into this conversation with her.  Telling and showing her how responsible you’ve become (with her help and guidance) is the key.   That means getting away from the parent-teen arguments that you’ve probably had (we have!) and talking with her more directly and openly. Sometimes it helps to show you’re open to listening to her advice and weighing it before you make a decision.
We get annoyed with our parents, too, when they seem overprotective, or assume we can’t manage on our own.  But we can also sympathize with them since each of us will always be our parents’ child, and it’s a parent’s job to protect their children.  It seems insulting to us but to them it’s just a habit of how they see us.  As they have trouble letting go, it’s also partly our responsibility to introduce ourselves to them as competent, able to make good decisions.  So listen to what your mom has to say and let her know you will make good decisions.
While we were discussing this issue, we realized that it makes a difference whether you’re the oldest, or youngest child, or in the middle.  Those of us who are oldest of our siblings found that our parents were more lenient with those who came after us, as if we’d broken them in.  And among females, if we have brothers we feel as if they can get away with a lot more than we ever did.
Finally, we suggest using humor to remind your parent that you’re an adult and able to take care of yourself. That will work better than arguing.  Say something like “I managed to wake up and feed myself this morning without your reminder!”  Over time, we hope that you’ll feel more comfortable acting like an equal to your mom and showing her that you really are grown.
The Peer Counselors
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