The 4 Stages of Your Relationship with Your Parents During College

Given that your parents have already been through their early twenties, the only one who’ll be surprised by how much you change is you.

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Given that your parents have already been through their early twenties, the only one who’ll be surprised by how much you change is you.

Image via Values.com

The day my mother said goodbye to me at the beginning of my freshmen year, I cried. I cried because I knew that the one woman who knew everything in the world and who had guided me through life was now gone. It was as if the mother bird said, “Hey, dude, leave the nest” and I, the baby bird, replied, “Well, hold on it’s actually pretty cozy in here and I don’t have to do laundry…”

As my time in college went on, however, my relationship with my mother changed. It morphed in numerous ways because I myself have morphed in numerous ways. During college, personal change will come swiftly and it will alter all of the relationships you had at the beginning of your college career (for better or worse).

While all your relationships will transform in some way, none of them will change as much as the relationship you have with your parents. Below is a brief guide broadly describing how you can expect your relationship with your parents to shift throughout college.

Freshman Year

When beginning this year, things probably won’t feel much different. Your parents will still most likely be pretty relevant in your life, and I know that many of us will still be calling home every other day.

But, as you begin to have to do your own grocery shopping, start folding your own laundry and start making yourself get up in the morning, you begin to gain a bigger sense of independence. You then realize that you don’t have to ask for permission to go out late with friends and when that happens, you really start calling home less.

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You begin to see that while there are road bumps, you’re not too bad at this “keeping yourself alive” business (excepting that one time you spent all your food money on concert tickets and had to become a fasting monk until you got paid again). As freshmen year comes to a close, you probably will feel a lot more confident in living alone, and while your parents still treat you like a child, they most likely have more respect for you now since you managed to feed yourself and wear clean clothes (the majority of the time).

Sophomore Year

Next, sophomore year rolls around and now you’re no longer a scared freshman. You know your school, you have your friends and after a long summer you’re ready to be back. Your parents’ send off is probably not as dramatic as it was the previous year. They may give you a nice hug before you head back to school, but hopefully they spare you the waterworks.

As the year goes on, you really begin to become independent. Most students at this juncture either have jobs, join extracurriculars or just really become involved in their studies. This is the year for many students where they really begin to start making plans for their future. With this involved focus on you and your future, you will naturally become a more independent and “grown-up” human being; parents notice this. They’ve known you your entire life and can see that you’re changing.

With this awareness they will most likely begin to treat you differently—not in a bad way, just in a way of respecting that you’re slowly becoming an adult and aren’t a kid anymore. They may begin to offer you career advice or try setting you up with their business associates for internships. The shift from child to respected adult begins toward the end of this year.

Junior Year

This is usually the year when shit really heats up. After a predictably productive summer, school rolls around and you’re aware that your window of college fun is closing. Leaving home doesn’t really feel bad at all, and now when people ask you “Where do you live?” you most likely say the name of your college town before your hometown.

Junior year is the year where students begin looking at graduate schools they want to attend, exploring potential internships they want to pursue and really begin to find out what it is they are passionate about. You become fully entrenched in life and thinking about the future. You cultivate relationships with only those who matter and, while you’re still a kid who does stupid stuff sometimes (or a lot of the time), you’re still becoming more prescient of your future and taking action to shape it.

As you undergo your junior year changes, your calls to your parents become more and more about your future endeavors. You call them for support in your ambitious goals and they respect you for it. You’re also older. As a funny result, they will probably begin to tell you things about their past you had no idea existed. During my junior year, I was told by my mom that she was a part of a rollerblading friend group with my dad who skated around Houston in the ’90s. My thoughts were, “Why, mom, why?” and “Holy shit my parents had lives and were real people before they had me.”

Senior Year

This is it. The final year where you really just go all in deciding what the hell it is you’re going to do after graduation. You will probably go to lengths you’ve never gone to before to network, get involved in school clubs and have fun during your final year. It will be a stressful but rewarding time. Leaving “home” doesn’t really feel the same way, because you’ve spent so much time away in the past four years that college is your home now and your parents will recognize this.

Image via The Latino Family Literacy Project

They will most likely try to help you in your job search, stress about your job search and make sure you don’t attempt to live on their couch in the future. As this year comes to an end, you will look up and realize how fast it all went, and you will also realize how fast and drastically your relationships with others have changed since your freshman year.

Some people who you thought were best friends are now just acquaintances whose pictures you like on Facebook. Your parents, the people who you once viewed as gods, who knew every answer to everything and who would be your protector over all evil in the world, you now view as normal human beings. Human beings with flaws who just did the best they could to raise you with values that would preserve and guide you throughout college and life.

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