Sunday, October 16, 2011

Breaking Away Together

Written by Ms. Berman
Dedicated to the students and families of the Senior class of 2012

“My mother says I am the devil child,” an IS Senior recently said to me.  “Ask her to call me and I will tell her stories about some truly bad kids,” I responded in a semi-sarcastic tone.  This flippant comment from my discouraged student, however, continued to resonate with me long after he had left the room.  I find myself wondering why we, as a society, are so set upon recognizing birthdays,  graduations, communions, weddings and so forth, and yet we do little to recognize and prepare both young adults and their families for the one of the biggest life transitions of all: breaking away.  This processes spans over an entire year, as the student begins applying to, planning for, and ultimately going off to college.
Perhaps we underestimate the emotional drain that the application process places on the student, and all of the close family members involved.  When my own children were going through this process, my husband philosophized that it’s an evolutionary necessity for children to get combative enough that we actually want them to move out.  Otherwise, he contended, how would we ever let our little darlings go?  Thus, as a child’s yearning for greater independence and control escalate, so do the family arguments based around the child’s ever changing wants and needs.  This signals that the process of breaking away has begun.
I hear the complaints from both the student and parental points of view.  Parents will contact me behind their child’s back (which I always tell them may backfire and encourage honesty when seeking my input), saying that their child has suddenly turned secretive and defiant.  The student doesn’t want to listen to the parent’s advice regarding college choices, nor topics for his/her personal statement.  A student’s typical rebuttal: “That’s what AVID is for.“   As the parent pushes harder to stay involved in the decision-making process, the student often resists even more. 
The student from the same family may come to me, complaining that all of a sudden new restrictions are being placed upon him/her, such as an earlier curfew or fewer opportunities to use the family car.  “It’s often about control,” I try to explain.  “As you withdraw from your parents, you create suspicion, and it is a normal response for them to try to keep better tabs on you.  Share your life with them,” I suggest.  “Be the one to initiate doing the things that you used to love doing together.  When is the last time that you actually went out and had fun without talking about IB exams, college applications, or career choices?”  Most students can’t remember.
No one is at fault for this dilemma.  Trying to evaluate the situation from the other person’s point of view and realizing that this is difficult for all the parties involved can sometimes lead to a little more patience.  Knowing that most families go through some type of adjustment during this period of time, and merely acknowledging that this is one of life’s most stressful transitions, can help the family members be less reactive to each comment and gesture as they arise.  It does not have to be a tumultuous time for both the student and the parents.  Focusing upon strategies that will create more successful ways to “break-away together” can make all the difference.


  1. As a young adult, I see college as a huge milestone in my life, and in anyone's life. Since I'm currently a senior, I'll be going off next year to some place and I'll be given oodles of independence to live life how I please. Despite the warnings and advice my parents and anyone else have given me, I will still make my own mistakes and I will have to learn from them.

    I think part of breaking away together is realizing and accepting that there is no perfect route to be take, and that mistakes, no matter what, will always be made.

  2. Beautifully put Rebecca and as a parent... we want you to fly and soar but we also want to protect and love you too! I believe that with everything there are many different paths... there is no correct path, only you will find your path! In the long run everyone finds their way to where they are going!

    It is not often said by parents but remember that we are human too and that we make mistakes as well! We all do our best and try our best!

    I think Ms Berman put it best it should be Breaking away TOGETHER!

  3. What is a child to do when the situation is the opposite? When a parent or parent figure seems to put too many restrictions even before they are ready to leave the coop. It seems to only make the child want to leave even more and even further away. Restrictions show no trust. They are commonly used as a form of punishment, so how should a child react when this no reason for multiple restrictions by the parent?

  4. The topic of breaking away is huge for some of us teenagers. Some can't wait until it happens but some aren't looking forward to that moment. When most students say they can not wait to leave home, they don't see how easy we have it. Don't get me wrong, some of us have it hard, and if I was in there situation I would be counting down the hours until I leave and move on with my life. I asked someone about this and he told me, "We all want to know the feeling of leaving home and moving on, but once you have had that feeling you wished you would of never felt it."

  5. I wanted to focus on the beginning. Just because someone called you something, it doesn't mean you are. You can change that if you think you are what they said. In this case, they called you a child of the devil. This doesn't necessarily mean that yo are this. You can change or maybe your mom just told you because she was mad at you.

    I did not see that my name was there.

  6. I agree with your husband, actually. Parents and teenagers are continually butting heads (for some genetic reason, maybe? Hello G4 project) and that makes it easier to move on.

    Although I'm not "breaking away" yet, I'd like to think that when I do it will be a mutual process. No empty nests. No hurt feelings. In a perfect world, that could exist. But in the real world, we just have to do the best we can to not burn too many bridges. Eventually, we'll step back and realize that both sides were too harsh, too sullen, too unpleasant. And eventually we'll want to share our lives with our parents again. Until that day, though, we'll just have to do our best.

  7. I agree with Christina Mello. Before I felt as if my parents didn't trust me enough to let me do new things, such as hanging out with friends or staying after school. They would say they did trust me, but I am "too young" to know better, or "there is no need to hang out with friends and you should focus more on school". Instead of convincing me that school is a priority it sometimes made me think that school was just an obstacle and I just had to get through it so I could "enjoy" life. I do agree with some of their reasons for not giving me as many opportunities as other teenagers have, but they took it too far sometimes. I did come up with a plan that we all agreed on, but they sometimes fall into the same pattern of "You were 10 minutes late, you can't go out anymore! You are not responsible and you want us to trust you?" I know they are afraid when I talk about college and mention wanting to study in San Francisco or Santa Cruz they think of that as an excuse for me to leave the house and become a "rebel", even if they do mention that as a joke, it is still too much for me to handle. They sometimes just think I am a bad daughter for the smallest little things, but they really don't know what BAD is. I know I am eager to leave for college, but I know that once I leave, I'll be wanting to come back. Even if they are maybe too strict, but I don't want them to know that haha :P.