College Dis-orientation

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Why Parents Need Freshman Orientation More Than Freshmen – National – The Atlantic Wire.

It’s that time of year, summer’s moving to a close and many of you will be dropping your kids off at university for the first time. Having had three children go through a variety of college experiences (one is still there), I was amused to read the linked article sent by my friend Phyllis on how parents are more in need of freshman orientation than their children are…

Let’s face it; dropping your child off at college is stressful.  It starts with not being able to fit all the “necessary” stuff into the car, continues with meeting the roommate (and praying he or she isn’t a Megadeath groupie), a likely trip to Wal-Mart for something needed, and finishes with a tearful goodbye (on the parents side).

The article, Why Parents Need Freshman Orientation More Than Freshmen by Alexander Abad-Santos from talks about the struggles today’s helicopter parents have dropping off the kids they’ve coddled since birth.  The recommendation is to attend the Parent Orientation sessions offered by 90% of today’s colleges. It’s a great look at how those 18 year-old Kobe Beef’s (urban legend, but you get my point) you’ve raised might actually gain some muscle tone going to Freshman English in the building across campus a couple of days a week. They’ll have to learn to do laundry, find the cafeteria and get their own food and OMG – wake up at 8am!

It’s our own fault you know. Most of us with college-aged children grew up in the 60’s. It was an era where most had fathers and/or mothers who ruled the house with an iron hand. Remember these phrases? – “Speak when you are spoken to,” “Please and thank you,” “Sit still,” “Kiss your grandmother,” “Clean your room or you can’t go to the movies.” “When I was your age…”

Not anymore. As parents today, we’ve secured the rebellion of our own childhood treatment by smothering our kids and waiting on them like visiting dignitaries who don’t speak our language. Wait on them hand and foot? Yes! Punish them? God, no…Chances are the first spanking your child might get is during their fraternity or sorority pledging!  Yeah life’s pretty good these days for kids heading off to school. Not so in my day – while my wife’s mother vacuumed her college dorm room before unpacking (an early helicopter mom), my mother waved goodbye from our driveway freshman year and actually made it to campus the first time for my graduation four years later.

I’m no expert on child-rearing by any means, but the reality is that the best thing to happen to your child might be to leave home for college. Not just the curriculum, it’s the having to “live on one’s own” that provides the real education. College gives you the opportunity to begin to make decisions for yourself. Your child learns to interact with others, problem solve, budget their time, stay up all night, and drink some of the cheapest beer available. Sure, sometimes they’ll call home for advice in the early days, but for the most part you hope they make choices on their own and deal with the consequences.  Even colleges think your kids are so independent that they send the college invoices directly to the students today. Hey, that’s not a bad thing; I know it stressed mine out to read the big number on the bottom!

So, fine; help ‘em unpack, feed ‘em a farewell lunch; but then get in the car, drive off and let them be…you’ll be surprised how well they might turn out.  And, finally take the “Freshman Orientation for Parents” course if the college offers it – because, as article says – “…would you like your offspring to come back home and eat pizzas on your couch all day? No? Well, how do those orientation programs sound now?”

About Wally

Wally Greene is both an eternal optimist and cynic, a waffling right-winger, a somewhat decent husband and father of three, budding masters swimmer, delusional comedy writer, chocolate lab lover, martini drinker and executive recruiter...not necessarily in that order.

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