College Helps Renew Parent-Child Ties

Some time during my first semester in the men’s dormitory at Cornell (in those days co-ed dorms were mere fantasies), the guys on the floor began talking about their parents. The more we talked, the more we came to value all that our parents had done for us. Mix this new awareness with some homesickness and the result often was a letter or call home. (We had no phones in our rooms and cell phones were science fiction; we stood in line to use the one public telephone in the hall. The wait was not too long because long-distance charges were steep back in the day of regulated telecommunications.) In my case it was a letter. My parents saved the letter I wrote, re-reading it at times when my appreciation was not so evident.

Going off to college clearly stirred renewed affection and appreciation for parents. I have never seen or heard this phenomenon discussed in print or at professional conferences. But it was very real to those of us in Founders Hall, Ithaca, back in 1966.

I was reminded of this by a father who told me recently that his estranged son initiated more contact with him in the first two weeks of college than he had in the prior two years. The boy clearly seeks to reclaim his identity as a child with two parents.

Parents with estranged relationships with their children should take heart in this phenomenon. If your children attend college away from home, this may give you an opportunity to renew ties with them. Read the article on Huffpost.

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3 Responses to College Helps Renew Parent-Child Ties

  1. EC says:

    Vis à vis a Huffpost reply, I’m reminded and struck again with how frequently a claim that the alienated or target parent has “abandoned” the affected child is made, when there are protective or restraining orders, or a custody order severely restricting or forbidding contact in place or threatened, which moreover everyone knows. Sometimes it’s alleged the alienated parent was unfit to care for or even had abused the child, and so was perforce legally enjoined from seeing the child, _and_ also chose not to be in significant contact. In one instance I’m familiar with, a therapist, who had counseled the child along `abandonment’ lines, was questioned about the apparent contradiction and would not acknowledge it, but would only proclaim that that the parent both had to be court ordered out of the child’s life, and freely abandoned the child, “is the narrative.”

    It’s hard to know, for purposes of informing a reunification attempt, what the child thinks in such cases: whether they believe the parent presented a real danger to them in terms of neglect or abuse, or that the parent simply had no interest in them, or somehow accepts the paradox that in both respects the parent was and is just `bad.’

    It’s commonplace and evidently an established or `best’ practice among therapists to recommend slow or incremental reconnection when child-parent contact has been interrupted—even for as short an interval as one month—usually because a parent withheld the other’s parenting time, when probably the exact opposite—rapid restoration—is actually in order. It appears to be more to accommodate the parent who caused the interruption, than it’s because of a sincere and well founded sense that the child would find adjusting problematic were the restoration more abrupt.

  2. I especially like your last paragraph – and I did start a blog – two in fact – just a few months ago! I always write letters to my children at Christmas – sometimes more often, but at least once a year. They know their letters will be in their stockings! Probably wouldn’t do anything you said not to – just a little bit inhibited! But that’s just me. Congratulations on being freshly pressed!

  3. dieta says:

    What is the leading case concerning college cost contributions by non-custodial parents? In a perfect world both parents should be thrilled to pay for the costs of college for their children. The parents should be elated that their child has not turned into a juvenile delinquent.