(U-WIRE) AMES, Iowa – As fall approaches, the media fill with new ideas and experts explaining how to make the transition back to school. Advertisements and segments for newer and better products to help ease the move for college students are featured on every talk show and news station. Targeting parents of freshmen, these pieces play on the “empty nest syndrome,” giving mothers and fathers across the nation plenty of tedious things to worry about when their children leave their immediate care.
For the last few years, society has capitalized on children’s inevitable return to the school system. It starts in grade school with tips on what your latch key children should snack on when they come home, or how much extracurricular interaction affects social well-being. They offer solutions with clever product placements and “conventional wisdom” mottos that are cliche enough to make your stomach churn.
As children, we were used to dealing with our parents’ worrying about every little thing when it came to school, grades, and our friends. So, when fleeing out the door onto a college campus, we expected a world of freedom and independence — even if we still have to beg our moms to do our laundry.
But, because of the way the nation’s school system unfolds, it’s become so much easier to follow that incessant, and sometimes intrusive, worrying right into college. From a young age we’re shuffled from day care to elementary school, to middle school, and finally to high school — threaded through a system that makes it easy for parents to fall victim to mass marketing and scare stories. If “it” happens to one child, “it” could happen to all children — after all, we’re all in the same place on the fast track to success.
From tips on how to stock your student’s dorm room efficiently to meningitis nightmares, this stockpile of information is almost a formula — an assembly line of preparedness for bored and anxious caregivers. It’s not as if the world hasn’t given adults enough to worry about: job security, health care, mortgage rates, and rampant global fear mongering, just to name a few. Now they’re scared that their babies will get to college and fight with their roommates, forget their socks, or miss the bus to class.
It’s not only parents who are getting too concerned with our personal lives — a menial pursuit, by the way, in the big scheme of problems college kids face — but also politicians and universities have started wondering what they can do to make us more efficient and productive citizens. Let’s conquer the college drinking problem, the myriad STDs present because of promiscuity on campus, drugs and parties, people leaving the state, and whatever other personal factors that legal adults are actually allowed to decide for themselves. This “support” from government organizations throws parents into a tailspin of nightmares about what we’ll face.
With all this craziness working against us, how do you get an obsessive parent off your back? A lot of students start to strain relationships with parents who can’t stop getting involved, which can be really detrimental when problems like taxes and loans come to light — things a parent can be incredibly helpful with. Because, let’s face it: What’s the biggest problem you face when you hit college? Not your seating charts or a professor who teaches in what seems to be another language for a few weeks. It’s money!
So, students, train your parents. Sit down and talk to them about the things you’re really worried about, and let them know how they can help in those departments. Volunteer some information instead of leaving them in the dark. If they start looking frazzled, drag the numerous aid offices on campus into it to help spread the burden. Oh, and tell them not to buy you that new all-in-one phone/iPod/computer/calculator/bookend/doorstop/bidet that they saw on the news — you might need that cash for rent sometime.