“Letting go” is a process and often more uncomfortable for parents and families than for their students who are occupied with academics, co-curricular activities, and developing new relationships their identities. It can be a difficult challenge to find the proper balance between staying connected with your student, remaining important and valued in their lives, being protective, and retaining some influence over their life versus encouraging responsible independence and good decision-making through independent and critical thinking, exploration of new ideas, and problem-solving.
Students typically want emotional support from their families, but not unsolicited advice or immediate solutions. It may be particularly uncomfortable and confusing for you when your student shares new ideas that challenge long-held family beliefs and values. It is important to remember that the developmental years marked by emerging adulthood are one of experimentation, with new beliefs and “trying on” identities to see how they “fit.” In this process of becoming an adult, it is not unusual for an individual to make frequent shifts (sometimes subtle, sometimes not) in their feelings, beliefs, and appearance, as well as in the various groups with which they identify.
It is important to acknowledge that the developmental tasks of both your student and you may bring significant challenges into your lives. Anticipating these challenges, remaining open to honest communication with your student, talking about your own feelings with your student, as well as with friends, relatives, parents of other college students, or with counselors can be helpful.