College homework and late nights worry parents

Seth Woerhle

Starting college means big changes not just for freshmen, but also for their parents.

The University has no formal program for dealing with parents’ “empty nest” syndrome, but it does have a Web site (www.parent.umn.edu) with advice for worried moms and dads, as well as quotes from other parents.

One mother, identifying herself as “SS,” wrote: “I had no idea that our first-born leaving for college would have such an effect on me. Her departure hit me like a ton of bricks. I found myself in tears just passing by her bedroom, or looking at that empty chair at the kitchen table.”

Katie Bloodgood said her mother fared a little better than “SS.”

“My mom cried a little but they’re only an hour and fifteen minutes away in Mankato,” said Bloodgood, a pre-med major. “I’m the youngest, so it’s a little rough.”

Being the last of the children to leave can help, too, according to Kate Hardt.

“I’m the fifth out of five, but they’re used to it by now,” said Hardt, an elementary education major who moved from Carson City, Nev. “I think they’ll be OK.”

The University’s Children, Youth and Family Consortium suggests parents talk about their feelings with other parents, work on redefining their roles as parents and use the extra time to do things they previously didn’t have time for.

The problems can be twice as bad when more than one child leaves.

“I’m a twin, so when both my sister and I left, it was doubletough for (my mom). The last two weeks before I left, my mom got really agitated,” said Kevin Jargo, a biomedical engineering major from Mahtomedi. “The last couple days she was just kind of depressed.”

Martha Farrell Erickson, director of the Children, Youth and Family Consortium, said the sadness parents experience is a normal response to a loss, but because leaving for college is thought to be a typical event, those feelings can be unexpected.

Sometimes a child leaving for college can merely be the trigger for other parental problems.

“A lot of marriage problems can emerge because they’ve been lost in the shuffle as parents have been dealing with their kids growing up,” Erickson said. “It’s a transition in the marriage and one that parents need to see as an opportunity to revisit the activities and things that brought them together in the first place.”

Some parents almost seem to deal with the transition a little too well, like Tom Mollner’s mother and father.

“My move-in went very easily, my parents just dropped me off, got me moved in and then they left,” said Mollner, a freshman from St. Paul. “I’m one of two middle children, so my dad was more upset that I wasn’t there to mow the grass anymore.”

Seth Woehrle welcomes comments at [email protected]