Far from home: developing independence in college

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The first time you officially experience the feeling is when your parents close the trunk and lean in for that final goodbye hug.

As you walk away from your parents and into your residence hall, you feel it. You finally feel like you are on your own. Independence, here you come! The ideas of staying up past midnight without a valid reason and 2 a.m. Wal-Mart runs dance in your head. You’re free!

In this helicopter-parenting world, it is becoming harder and harder for young people to establish independence from their parents, whether they are living at home during their college education or hundreds of miles away.

To better help students establish independence, universities are informing parents about the best ways to respect their student without being too intrusive.

The University of Central Arkansas’ Housing and Residence Life has an entire webpage dedicated to student independence. It said parents should avoid making conversations feel like inquisitions, and they should inquire about their student’s classes instead of asking only about grades. The page also said parents should not ask for details about each new friend their student makes.

If you live at home during college, gaining independence can be much more difficult.

There are a variety of reasons students live at home during college: to save money, because of health problems, to continue helping with their family at home and sometimes the fear of independence.

Having seen the effects of living at home during college, which a lot of my friends from home decided to do, it makes me incredibly happy that I chose to move 200 miles away to attend college.

It was difficult for my friends to learn new life skills because their parents were still cleaning up after them and doing their laundry, for example. I also learned to be a lot more informed about budgeting my money. I knew how much money I had for fun outings or going out to eat because my parents were not around to give me cash when I was running low.

University Parent, in its article, “Tips to Help At-home College Students Gain Independence,” said students living at home should consider paying for their own groceries and begin cooking their own meals. In addition, the article said students living at home should be responsible for their own laundry and cleaning the areas they use.

Even if you live at home, you can slowly distance yourself from depending on the family unit by creating your own schedule, doing your own chores and buying your own food.

In her article, “6 Ways to Become More Independent, Less Codependent,” Margarita Tartakovsky, associate editor at PsychCentral, said you should get to know yourself, challenge your beliefs and assumptions, become more assertive, start making your own decisions, begin to meet your own needs and learn to soothe yourself.

As you transition into the real world as an individual, either away from home or under your parents’ roof, it is important to keep those six suggestions in mind. For example, learning to soothe yourself is a great way to begin understanding your own feelings and start learning what makes you happy.

There are many ways to show independence. I believe following what makes you happy is the best way to become independent, regardless of where you live or where you are in your life.

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