You Can Leave Now, Mom and Dad

Parting is such sweet sorrow, and it is not only romantic lovers who experience this phenomenon, but also the parents of college bound students. After spending nearly two decades watching their sons and daughters grow from mischievous toddlers to responsible young adults, it is understandably difficult for parents to separate from their children when it comes time to drop them off at college. But leaving new college students to experience independence is essential, and as more parents seem to forget this fact, more colleges are creating official “parting ceremonies” to indicate to parents that it is time to let go.

Make no mistake, leaving kids at college has always been a difficult time for students and parents alike, but it is only recently that the ordeal has become over-the-top, the New York Times suggests. Super-involved parents are now lingering around the campus well after move-in day instead of immediately leaving their children to enjoy their newfound freedom and responsibilities. For example, one student’s parents accompanied her to her first day of classes before marching to the registrar’s office to change her schedule, a dean at Colgate University told the NY Times. Whether the student actually desired her parents to be there with her or not is irrelevant; when classes begin, it is only supposed to be the student who attends, not the student and his or her family.

Increasing incidents of meddling behavior from hovering and lingering parents has prompted numerous universities to establish formal ceremonies that will drop not-so-subtle hints that it is time for the parents to leave. For example, at Princeton University, parents are notified on the move-in schedule that after 5:30 p.m., all of the orientation events are for students only. At the University of Minnesota, parents are invited to a separate reception elsewhere while students get to settle in without their mothers hovering over their shoulders of their fathers sizing up their roommates. Other schools take more grandiose approaches to mark the parting of student and parent, such as Morehouse College’s ceremony where new students troop through the gates of the campus, which then swing shut, leaving parents stuck on the outside.

It may be more difficult for parents nowadays to leave their children because more parents are now super-involved with parenting than ever before, Psychology Today asserts, which has both its benefits and drawbacks. On the plus side, the bond between children and parents is stronger, but on the minus side, children are also robbed of the opportunity to fully develop on their own. College is a chance for otherwise very protected individuals to learn about independence and responsibility. An increasing number of schools are realizing this fact, and therefore creating more ritualized events that will ease parents into letting go of their students. That is, at least until those students go home at the end of the semester.

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