Parents, College Students Need to Talk

By Creamer, Noele | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, December 17, 2006 | Go to article overview

Parents, College Students Need to Talk


Creamer, Noele, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Just when you thought the power struggles of adolescence were over, your children come home from college for Christmas break.

In some cases, this is the first time that college students have had a chance to spend an extended period back home since they left for college in August. That means they've had more than three months of independent living where they've slept as long as they wanted, were out until all hours of the night and ate pretty much whatever was lying around.

Many times plans for holiday break are far different for college students and their parents. To make the transition a little easier, administrators and staff at local colleges offer some pieces of advice for students and their parents.

Gayle Pamerleau, the director of counseling at the University of Pittsburgh's Greensburg campus, said that the institution offers an e-newsletter with loads of advice to parents of on-campus students, including what to do when the student returns home.

However, most of the issues she sees arise when students return for the spring semester in the new year. Then she hears the residual effects of poor planning for breaks.

"It's a good idea for students and parents to talk before the student comes home to address potential problems before they happen," she said. "Students are used to being on their own with no curfew and making decisions about their social lives. Yet parents have a right to expect certain rules will be enforced, especially if there are younger siblings still in the house. So there has to be a compromise and it's usually easier to address these issues earlier than when a child comes home at 2 a.m."

Other issues may arise around schedules and agendas for the holidays.

Pamerleau said college students may come home with expectations of sleeping a lot and hanging out with high school friends while the parents may want them to attend family events.

"Again, it's better to discuss these things ahead of time," she said.

While Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus is a commuter campus without a residential life office, school counselor Alan Smith said that many of these same stressors apply to students who stay at home and commute to college. He agreed with Pamerleau that it is better for parents and students to be proactive.

"Parents still expect students to abide by their rules and they end up fighting with their students," he said. "But these are issues we deal with throughout the year with our students since we are a commuter campus. They are more issues about independence. There has to be some give and take, and that needs to happen from day one because students are going to want more independence . …

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