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Opinion: Why parents and their kids should talk instead of judge

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Samantha Hollingshead says a speech during her parents vows renewals in 2013. Credit: Courtesy of Samantha Hollingshead

Samantha Hollingshead says a speech during her parents vows renewals in 2013. Credit: Courtesy of Samantha Hollingshead

Going to college is a very big step in the lives of students, but it’s also a big step for those students’ parents as well — probably the biggest step of trust.

Universities and campuses are filled with so many things that would keep any parent up at night: parties, alcohol, sex and drugs. Most parents spend their days worrying about their child’s safe return. Some parents handle these worries in the wrong way, by being angry with their children when they mess up — or worse: by not talking with them or judging them.

I was one of the lucky ones. My parents, although protective, were never overprotective, strict but not harsh, punishing yet forgiving, and always loving.

For my 18th birthday, my friends threw me a party, a party I knew would have beer. Before the party, my mom asked me bluntly if it would have alcohol.

Shocked that she knew, but too scared to lie, I told her the truth. To my surprise she wasn’t upset. She told me to be careful, to be safe, to be aware and, most importantly, not to get in the car and drive.

As she spoke, not only did I respect the hell out of her, but I knew that in the future that I could always tell her the truth, with no judgement.

I tell my parents everything, all my good and all my bad. It’s amazing — having real conversations about my concerns or experiences has helped me feel OK with them all.

Now don’t get me wrong, my mom and dad scare me, but not in a bad way. I never feared breaking the rules, I feared my parents’ disappointment. I feared letting them down or letting myself down in the process. My parents always pushed me to do my best and to make the right choices.

I am not perfect: I’ve made mistakes, I’ve pushed the boundaries of rules; but at the end of the day I know I can talk to my parents about it.

Through my first years of college, my parents talked to me about alcohol and other touchy stuff. They didn’t lecture or tell me what I had to do. Instead they allowed me to talk, they asked me questions, they offered advice and they shared their stories as well.

My parents were honest, and unlike most, they were never hypocrites. They knew that they made mistakes, but they knew their job wasn’t to keep me from doing the same but rather to help me through it.

A parent’s main job is to love you unconditionally and to guide you. When we are younger, their guidance is simple. When we learned to crawl, they didn’t care which direction it was in — they were just happy we were moving on our own. When we learned to walk, they didn’t push us one way or another — they let us roam. But as we got older, some started to push or direct. My parents did the opposite. They showed me the best ways, but they let me decide.

To this day I don’t regret any decision I have ever made, not that I have made a lot of bad choices. I never have because of my parents. They continue to love me through all my glory and all my faults, and they continue to never judge me.

I can also honestly say I don’t hide things from my parents. They know me better than anyone because I have allowed them to, and the great thing is, I have gotten to know them, too.

Things that never made sense about my parents have started to over the years because I can talk to them about anything, and in return they feel like they can talk to me about anything. My parents and I talk, which is rare for many adults my age, and to those of you who don’t have the privilege, I encourage you to try.

Students, remember your parents love you the most in this world. Their overreactions and overprotective advice is all in good heart. When they want to talk to you about safe sex or smart drinking, let them. When they want to tell you they worry, let them. Most importantly, listen to them and talk to them. They have walked in your shoes before and their experience and knowledge will go a long way.

Parents, when your child does something bad, don’t judge them, don’t lecture them, but instead talk to them. Talk to your teenagers and young adults about safe sex, safe drinking, drugs and anything else in life. Be there for them when they fall, and while you don’t have to pick them up, give them a hand.

The best thing my parents ever did was to avoid shoving me toward the perfect direction in life. They let me walk down rough and bumpy paths and watched me succeed and move over obstacles, but they also watched me fall, and I always knew that they walked it with me. Although a step behind, they were still there, ready for me when I turned around.

One comment

  1. I was a strict military vet single mother and I used to feel guilty being so strict BUT after all the kids coming home from colleges in body bags while my buckeye came home a happy graduate I don’t care about judgemental rants like this anymore. You kept flip flopping because you aren’t a parent. Write this again when you become A PARENT…..

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