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Parent Trap: 5 Things College Freshmen Need to Let Go 

As college freshmen embark on the next leg of their journey, there are five important things they need to let go of. And I don’t mean a teddy bear. The following are meaningful items that will require some reflection and action.

1. Expectations: It’s high time young people believe that they know what’s best for them more than their parents. I encourage the girls I counsel to listen to the advice from adults who love them, but then to run the advice through the filter of “Is this in my best interests?” “What do I want?” Freshmen need to leave behind the pattern of doing things for parental approval or to avoid disappointing people. It’s THEIR life now.

2. Comfort zone: College is the perfect time to get uncomfortable. Students shouldn’t be afraid to choose dorms, sororities and fraternities, roommates, friends, and colleges that are different from their high school crowd. They’ll learn so much by spending time with a variety of people with a variety of interests.

3. Their old story: Past experiences, especially negative ones, can leave their mark on a young person’s sense of self. If your child was excluded or lost a best friend group, he or she may have felt annoying or weird, like an outcast, or undeserving of good friends. It is imperative that freshmen take some time to reflect on their pasts and to make better decisions about what these experiences mean. They are in charge of their own stories, and I hope each student walks onto campus knowing he or she is deserving of love, respect, good friends and a great life.

4. Reputation: When students start college, 99% of their peers have no past history with them, so  they have no reputation. A young woman I counseled recently told me she was tired of her friends treating her like a “party animal bimbo.” I reminded her that we are always teaching people how to treat us, and she needs to take responsibility for how her behaviors and her own beliefs about herself created this persona. The question for her and every freshman is how do they want to show up at college.

5. Umbilical cord: Cut that cord! It represents places where parents take too much responsibility for their children’s lives. This includes being involved with professors, friends, parking tickets and problem-solving. It’s also high time you retire that horrible Life360 app and the need to know every detail. I encourage young people to have a heart-to-heart discussion with their parents and establish boundaries about how often they will talk. They’re adults now, away from home at college and trying to grow up.

Self-reliance, grit and self-esteem are earned by overcoming challenges and obstacles and taking charge of your life. Your children need to keep letting you know how to support them at every stage, and your job is to respect their wishes and get your needs met as well. Enjoy the ride as you watch them blossom into the people they’re meant to be.

Tim Jordan M.D. is a developmental and behavioral pediatrician specializing in counseling girls grade school through college. His most recent book is She Leads: A Practical Guide for Raising Girls Who Advocate, Influence, and Lead. For more information, visit drtimjordan.com.

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