Should college students 'break up' with their parents?

Moving in day
With help from her family, Sarah Obis (center) moved into her dorm room at the University of Minnesota on Tuesday August 30th, 2011. Obis, 18, from Grayslake Ill., shares a room with one other roommate. But because of crowded residence halls, many students are finding themselves in rooms that are overcapacity.
MPR Photo/Tim Post

Having a close relationship with your parents is a good thing. But for college students, how attached is too attached? When is it time to 'break up?'

We wanted to talk about "divorcing your parents" after reading Terry Castle's piece for the Chronicle of Higher Education, "Don't pick up: Why kids need to separate from their parents."

In the piece, Castle recalls a conversation with college students where they start telling her how often they talk to their parents:

" Finally, one student--a delightful young woman whom I know to be smart and levelheaded--confesses that she talks to her mother on the cellphone at least five, maybe six, even seven times a day: We're like best friends, so I call her whenever I get out of class. She wants to know about my professors, what was the exam, so I tell her what's going on and give her, you know, updates. Sometimes my grandmother's there, and I talk to her too.

I'm stunned; I'm aghast; I'm going gaga. I must look fairly stricken too--Elektra keening over the corpse of Agamemnon--because now the whole class starts laughing at me, their strange unfathomable lady-professor, the one who doesn't own a television and obviously doesn't have any kids of her own. What a freak. 'But when I was in school,' I manage finally to gasp, 'All we wanted to do was get away from our parents!' 'We never called our parents!' 'We despised our parents!' 'In fact,' I splutter--and this is the showstopper--'we only had one telephone in our whole dorm--in the hallway--for 50 people! If your parents called, you'd yell from your room, Tell them I'm not here!'

Castle will join The Daily Circuit Monday to give us the case for breaking up with your parents. Marjorie Savage, parent program director at the University of Minnesota, will also join the discussion.

"One of the critical developmental steps for eighteen- to twenty-two-year-olds is to learn to make their own decisions," Savage wrote in 'You're On Your Own.' "Today's students know that thoughful decision making includes gathering solid information and seeking reliable advice. The youth of this generation realize that their mothers and fathers have helped them get this far, and they recognize that some of their decisions can impact the family finances. They will continue to turn to their parents while they are in college."


Parents have a hard time letting go because they have been managing their child's life so closely until they reach college. It's a confusing and scary time for parents and their children.

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