One of the most momentous transitions in a person’s life involves leaving the comforts of home and moving away to college. Although this time is filled with both potential and possibilities, it can also be turbulent without the familiar structure of parental supervision to direct an adolescent’s behavioral path. Resources are available that can help fill the guidance gap as a teen gradually gains more independent skills.
As defined in their pioneering 1985 study, “Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior,” scholars Richard M. Ryan and Edward L. Deci from University of Rochester described self-determination theory as a human need for ongoing psychological growth, integrity and well-being. One of these innate requirements involved autonomy, or achieving the ability to initiate and self-regulate one’s own actions. Another significant contributor is the parent of the child. According to Temple University researchers Nancy Darling and Laurence Steinberg in the 1993 study, “Parenting Style as Context: An Integrative Model,” they theorized that parenting goals, values, styles and practices strongly determine an adolescent’s willingness to socialize and other behavioral outcomes.
One of the latest publications that incorporates ideas of teen autonomy and parenting styles is, “The iConnected Parent: Staying Close to Your Kids in College (and Beyond) While Letting them Grow Up,” by authors Barbara K. Hofer, Ph.D., and Abigail Sullivan Moore in 2010. Surveying incoming college students, participants talked with their parents about school once a week before leaving their home and an increased average of 13.4 times a week while away at school. Through subsequent interviews, these conversations commonly consisted of reminding students of due dates, exam days, chores and even when to eat and sleep, similar to their lives at home.
While these students report a strong relationship with their caregivers and their parents are well-intentioned, the experts suggest that undermines psychological and academic growth in addition to learning valuable skills of independence. For the best results, Dr. Hofer suggested a few tips, including:
1. Before the child leaves for school, openly plan how often communication will happen.
2. Allow students to initiate contact with parents.
3. When dealing with issues, listen, reflect and teach problem solving skills rather than seeking to solve the problem directly.
4. Avoid judgment and controlling language.
5. Praise major steps of the child’s increasing independence.
By teaching teens responsible actions with a decent amount of distance, these students can learn how to independently protect and promote their own well-being. Equipping adolescents with education and related resources other than substance use is a substantial strategy for long-term coping skills, especially in the case of developing mental, emotional or behavioral dysfunction. For more serious behavioral problems, Sovereign Health Rancho San Diego is a specialized facility that offers adolescents who are struggling with mental health issues, substance abuse and dual diagnosis a chance to recover and regain control of their lives. Call to speak with a professional today.
Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer