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Are 1st-year university students dependent on parents? Yes, but that’s OK, expert says

Click to play video 'It’s OK for 1st-year university students to rely on parents: expert' It’s OK for 1st-year university students to rely on parents: expert
WATCH ABOVE: As thousands of Canadian students begin their first year of university, parents and their kids can struggle with cutting the cord. Now more than ever, parents play a big role in their kids lives. Kim Smith explains why there's nothing wrong with checking in with mom and dad – Sep 4, 2018

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At the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan Campus, a conference is held each year to help parents feel more at ease with their children’s transition to university.

The session has been offered for more than a decade and Ian Cull, the associate VP of students, said undergraduates are now more likely to make decisions with the help of their parents than ever before.

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“Over the last eight or 10 years, what we’ve seen is there is more collaboration in the family. More things are discussed; more things are collaborative decisions,” Cull said on Sunday. “The point of today is helping mom and dad and students feel like they made a good choice.”

Alyson Schafer, parenting author and counsellor, said modern parents tend to “over-parent” or “helicopter-parent” with younger children. As a result, first-year university students–living both at home and on campus–can struggle with cutting the cord and living independently.

“Our children could fail to develop some of their ability for autonomy, independence, critical thinking, problem-solving because we jump in too quickly,” Schafer said.

“We’re all eager to be helpful; we think we’re being loving. But we may actually be thwarting them in some of those skills.”

However, Schafer said it’s not necessarily negative for parents to have more of a presence in their university-aged kids’ lives.

“The fact that our kids live at home is not so much a failure to launch… We actually enjoy the company of our children and they enjoy the company of us.”

“We are really developing healthy relationships, intergenerationally, and that’s a beautiful thing. Isn’t that the goal of parenting?”

READ MORE: Using cellphones and laptops in class brings down grades: study

Schafer said kids at university who continue to consult frequently with their parents before making decisions are using all of the resources at their disposal.

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“Why would you not go for sage counsel, to an authority in your life, who you trust and respect and want to have weigh in?” she said. “I think that’s very different than, ‘I’m incapable of making a decision’ and ‘My mommy always decides for me’ and ‘I haven’t learned how to make decisions on my own.’ We have to take it on a case-by-case basis.”

At the UBC Okanagan move-in day on Sunday, Angela Jackson was moving her daughter Sara Smiley into residence.

“We’re a pretty good team, her and I. That’s going to be a bit of a void,” Jackson said. “Thankfully, today’s technology makes it way simpler compared to when I went to university and left home. That was back with just long-distance calls and no internet. This is going to be a lot easier.”

“We can FaceTime every night if we want to.”

Schafer says staying in touch with modern technology doesn’t necessarily signal a lack of independence.

“The fact that you can text means that if you are at the pharmacy and debating between which shampoo and conditioner to buy, it’s easy to text, ‘Hey mom. What do you think of this versus that brand?’ or whatever,” she said.

“I think the immediacy of texting, that your parents are right at your fingertips, means that it is easy access, so why wouldn’t you? It only takes 10 seconds.”

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