My College:
Student Life

Let Your Kids Be Adults

Guest Contributor


I am 18, but I am not an adult.

Looking across the street at the passersby, I see adults. I see them on their way to work. I see them walking their dogs. I see them talking to their friends. Looking down at the heavy groceries that my mum handed me, just before she entered Tesco to buy another pack of those red apples she forces me to eat, I wish I was an adult.

As an international student, I applied to college in the U.S. for a much-needed change of scenery. After living in Nigeria and England for most of my life, I wanted to go to college in a new location where I could have novel experiences, away from the watchful eyes of my parents.

Unfortunately, this is not the college experience that awaited me this year.

Doing my first year of college online has made me feel far from the independent adult I thought I would become. And I’m sure this is a similar experience for students across the globe. In high school, we all look forward to going to college. We look forward to living away from home, and for many, for the first time. We look forward to the independence of living by ourselves.

However this year, because of the effects of COVID-19, we’ve all had to look in a different direction than we originally expected. A virtual direction.

For a lot of new college students, this has meant a completely web-based college experience, with many freshmen staying with their parents in their hometowns and taking classes online. Although some might make the case that this eases fresh high school graduates into college life, I argue that it is instead delaying what is inevitable.

Kids will grow up! And for kids to grow up, they must learn independence. They must learn responsibility. They must learn accountability. All things found through…experimentation.

Most would agree with me that living at home, especially with strict parents, is not exactly the best environment to facilitate the type of experimentation college provides. However, even your daily activities are policed when living with your parents.

Throughout this period, I feel like nothing I do I have decided for myself. What I eat is decided for me. What I wear is decided for me. Even my schedule is decided for me. Okay, these are slight exaggerations, but my lack of freedom is clear. If the sentence “If I was in college right now, I would’ve done [insert desired activity here] instead” is constantly running through my mind (the part of my mind that isn’t stressing about approaching academic deadlines), a serious issue is at hand.

Living at home with the surveillance of our parents (even if it is loving and well-intentioned) means we are unable to explore through our actions, and thus we can’t learn from these actions: an extremely important step into our growth as adults.

The following suggestions are for the parents out there with a college freshman who is staying at home because of the virus. Most people don't want to "over-parent" and may not even realize they are doing it. I am aware these times are difficult for all of us, especially as we begin another pandemic semester, and the suggestions outlined below are just a way we can make this time easier for each other.

Suggestions for Families with College Students Living at Home

  • Avoid negatively commenting on what your child is wearing as they leave the house. Maybe they want to try out a new aesthetic. Let them be adventurous.
  • Avoid policing what food your child eats. Unless your child has previously had an unhealthy relationship with food, or is eating an unhealthily small or large amount, trust them to make informed decisions on what meals will be healthy or satisfying for them.
  • I encourage you and your child to develop a daily schedule. Try and make sure that you aren't disrupting each other’s schedules. College is stressful enough already, online or not. It's important for students to be able to study free of interruptions.
  • Carve out time to spend with each other doing fun things so that you can maintain a good relationship throughout this period. Develop communal activities: baking, painting — even watching 90 Day Fiancé!
  • Finally, as bizarre as it may sound to you, let your children be adults.
Olaedo Okoroafor is a Nigerian freshman at Columbia University planning to major in Computer Science with a concentration in East Asian Studies. Ola helps run @the.survivor.project on Instagram, raising awareness about sexual assault in Nigerian communities.

 

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