Finding Courage To Cut The Cord

Katie Young
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Wednesday - March 14, 2007

My first semester away at college in Tacoma, Wash., I think I called my parents every day - maybe even twice a day sometimes. I was so homesick I begged on a weekly basis to come home to Hawaii.

I think the girls in my dorm thought I was some sort of nocturnal weirdo because I’d sit out in the hallway until all hours of the morning talking to my parents or friends on the phone. My long distance phone got cut off more than once that first semester when I continued to go past my $150 limit.

I hated that I finally had to do my own laundry because it took so long to do, plus I feared someone would abscond with my underwear or favorite pair of jeans if I didn’t stand right outside the laundry room until my load was done.

I longed for a home-cooked meal and the comforting sound of my parents walking around the house. I even longed for my human alarm clock (my father) and missed many early morning classes after hitting the snooze bar too many times.

It was excruciating for a while. But my parents were smart and told me to hold out until Christmas break. If I still felt like I could-n’t handle the Mainland, well, then they would bring me back home.

But that never happened. I adjusted. And while it was still a struggle to figure out how to cook for myself, and I still talked to my parents more than once a week, I learned to enjoy being on my own.

As I discussed last week, “cutting the cord” can be difficult for both parents and kids, but it’s a necessary part of life. Part two of this series examines what this means from the child’s perspective.

“While most teenagers look forward to moving on, finding themselves in a strange, new environment may well evoke feelings of homesickness, loneliness and a sense of inadequacy,” says Diane Raleigh, Ph.D., a psychologist in private practice for more than 25 years and a member of the Hawaii Psychological Association. “In order to overcome these normal feelings, e-mail and phone communications with family members and friends can lessen their sense of being alone in a new world.”

In addition, says Raleigh, participation in dorm and college activities should be encouraged in order for the student to feel a part of the new community. Seeking friendships should also be encouraged.

“It’s important that teenagers understand such feelings are normal and they often pass after a few weeks or months,” she explains.

More than anything, it is important for every individual to feel they are capable of being independent and in control of their own lives.

“They learn to be resourceful, confident and create a strong sense of identity by separating from their parents at an appropriate age,” says Raleigh. “A healthy person is one who is confident they can stand on their own two feet and survive.”

It may be a scary scenario for some young adults. The comforts of home are often hard to let go of. I still feel at times like I need my mommy and daddy. Not only that, but sometimes parents don’t even want their children to let go and they enjoy feeling needed.

Therefore, it’s important that parents and children work together to cut the cord at the appropriate time, because building that sense of independence on both sides can lead to a new level of understanding for each other.

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