WASHINGTON — College has long been associated with independence. No one’s there to enforce your bedtime, scrutinize what you eat or tell you when to study.
But today’s college students may not be as self-reliant as generations past. In fact, Jolie Brown, a life coach with Rachel and Jolie, said now more than ever, college kids are “tethered to their parents.”
“It’s not their fault. They have phones, they use their phones all day long, and so what we’re finding is that instead of solving problems on their own, they quickly reach back out to their parents,” said Brown, who works closely with teens, young adults and millennials.
With mom and dad just a quick text away, soliciting advice for even the simplest of problems is a habit worth breaking.
“We are innocently giving them the playbook — the 1,2,3s on how to solve that problem — because we’re parents and we help our kids, that’s what we do. But it’s sort of subtle enabling,” Brown added.
Her best piece of advice to parents? “Sit on your hands and let you kids figure out their own issues” — even if it means watching them fall or fail a few times. This doesn’t mean you can’t answer the phone when they call or text, but if your child comes to you looking for an answer to a daily dilemma, Brown said don’t take the bait.
“It’s entirely your role to say, ‘You can do this. I’m here for you to talk about it, but I know you can figure this out.’ That’s the only way they’re going to learn true resilience, true grit — things that millennials aren’t really going through because they can just reach out and look for options.”
Brown said there are some instances when parents shouldn’t sit on the sidelines. Health is one example — Brown just recently drove through multiple states to help her college-aged son who came down with the flu. Go with your gut: If there’s a serious situation and you don’t think your child has the skill set to navigate the issue, offer some assistance.
“If it’s simple things or just roughing it — getting through a gray day — you’ve got to pull back and let them experience that because amazing things can happen through very difficult journeys,” Brown added.
If your child is new to college, Brown said it’s normal for them to feel homesick and call more than usual, but this will subside. Sending them to sleep-away camps or weeklong vacations at a relative’s house during their high school summers can help prepare them for this step.
“In the beginning, I think they do feel a little bit wobbly. But let them wobble, that is part of the journey,” Brown said.
“As parents, we need to be supportive, keep telling our children that we love them and that we’re always there for them, but we can’t solve their problems.”