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Parents and kids get connected

Is technology too much of a good thing?

August 21, 2011
By KIM LOCCISANO - Staff Writer ( , Times Leader

The iConnected Parent: staying close to your kids in college (and beyond) while letting them grow up, by Barbara K. Hofer, Ph.D, and Abigail Sullivan Moore, is a book that any family would do well to keep on hand for help with the tough days that can come with even the best parent.

Child relationships are the focus, particularly during high school, college and the years just beyond as parents hope to see their child develop into a happy, healthy and successful adult-not to mention one capable of independent thought based on sound decision making skills acquired on the way to becoming a mature adult. Children must reach these goals on their own or they will mean little, say increasing ranks of experts.

Children do not come into this world accompanied by the latest version of assembly directions, a parts list, or an instruction manual, which means parents are simply learning to communicate with their offspring in a way that works best for them. Granted this is not always a smooth road to travel as both children and parents seem destined to learn by doing, and hopefully, manage to communicate more effectively as each growth stage passes.

The biggest changes: the tools through which we communicate; how often parents and kids "connect"; and where are healthy parenting boundaries drawn and by whom.

Long gone are the times when news of a school day was shared in the loudest volume possible by a child who had barely entered the house before beginning the town crier's version of the events of their day or when a college student set aside a certain time once a week to call their parents.

Avenues of communication for nearly everyone in this country have been forever changed thanks to advances in communication methods which now are realized at such a fast pace it is nearly impossible to keep up .

Open communications between parents and children have been on the increase steadily in recent years: but educational and developmental experts are now letting us know what the increasing price for this improved level of communications appears to be.

Unfortunately, the news is not all good.

Improving your family's communications connection habits can be done without too much real pain. Very likely the result of improved communications practices-particularly between parents and college age kids-will be a happier household and an improved quality of communications.

You might even find your email and cell phone bills will show a savings for the household's total cost to communicate.

According to educators and those studying the trends that have developed around increasing uses of technology designed to make communicating easier and faster and constantly available, the impact on society is becoming apparent and the news is not great.

Not surprisingly, research has surfaced supporting the argument that too much of a good thing-even when it comes to parents and their kids communicating-is just that: too much.

Parents no longer expect to be told for the first time details of their child's day while sitting around the dinner table. In many cases, if there is a big development during the school day and it is not shared with parents long before the last bell of the day has been sounded then someone may have some explaining to do once a parent arrives home for the day.

Today's students are making their way through life's developmental stages-including their academic education-in a manner unlike any other generation in the history of modern civilization.

Avenues through which information-personal and educational-is shared have never been so pervasive: a reality bringing the question of what impact does this have on the dynamics of communications between students and teachers, teens and their peers, college roommates, prospective employers and students of any age and their parents.

Thanks to the wonders of modern means of communicating: cell phones, the Internet, texting, emailing, Skype, Facebook, YouTube, laptops, notebooks and the like, parenting practices have been and are being impacted with mixed results.

Too much time spent in communicating with parents can substantially hinder a college age student's development of a healthy level of personal independence and ability to make quality decisions on their own.

The reality is, parents who are overly involved and who are overly connected with their child, their peers, teachers, and even their bosses, are seriously threatening that individual's ability to be successful at any level of his or her personal life at any age.

Brief, concise examples of both potential positive and negative impacts resulting from specific communications and parenting practices are offered in a non-judgmental format.

Explaining the how and why aspects about why certain parenting communications habits should be avoided are shared in a candid but non-judgmental way by the authors and researchers.

The messages shared in "The iConnected Parent" are well worth taking the time to read and carry into future conversations - whether you are the child or the adult.

Candid true life examples are used throughout, giving readers opportunities to easily connect with the various messages shared in what can readily be seen as a broad ranging reference text for just about any family with children of college age.

It is a great read for parents and children - particularly if the teens in the family are near the age when they move from high school into college and eventually into adulthood.

"One of the key tasks that begins in adolescence and continues into adulthood is to learn to become one's own person. This doesn't mean, of course, cutting ties with family. On the contrary, it means finding a balance between independence and connection to family," according to a chapter titled "Can College Kids Grow Up on an Electronic Tether?"

It seems a little healthy separation of child and parent when it comes to communicating can be a very good thing for all involved, helping nurture a happier and healthier take on life as a college student.

The most serious damage done by overly connected parents and their college age child is to the young adult's ability to adjust and adapt in a healthy way to college life. This is most often seen during the first year away from home, and the problem is on the rise, say educators and mental health professionals.

"Being separate while staying connected, rather than breaking away, is the ideal, and kids need room to find this out for themselves. They need to have enough space apart to learn for themselves that they do want to have their parents in their lives. Without the freedom to separate and make this discovery, resentments that arose during high school can continue to simmer, along with the desire to break away," shared authors Hofer and Moore.

"I have realized what an important part of my life my parents are. At first I was very excited to get away from home and be on my own, but now breaking away from home is not very important," said a participant from one of the studies conducted as research for the book. "I know my parents are always there for me, and as a result I want to keep them in my life."



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