Sunday, December 17, 2000

Freshmen on break: Just a bit older, but wiser

Months away mature them; parents cope

By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Just a few months ago, thousands of wide-eyed high school grads got their first tastes of adulthood when they left for institutions of higher learning.

        Now, with their dirty laundry in tow, these fledgling grown-ups are returning on their first Christmas breaks.

        The months away have matured them and, in some cases, brought about an awareness of the harsh realities of life.

[photo] College freshman Jill Coy (center), is home for the holidays with her parents, Rick and Jan Coy.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
| ZOOM |
        “I was initially afraid,” said Jill Coy, 18, an accounting major at Butler University from Anderson Township.

        “The money I spend now is mine. I'm very conscious of that. I wondered if I could take control of my life. But I have, and I feel more confident because of it.”

        Miss Coy said Indianapolis is far enough away to experience life on her own but close enough she can accompany her dad to a Bengals game.

        “I usually go about six weeks and then I have to see her,” said Jill's mother, Jan Coy.

    To ensure a peaceful holiday break, Dr. James Brush, a child-adolescent psychologist with a practice in Monfort Heights, suggests:

    • Negotiate and respect each other. “One of the hardest things for parents is when their kid comes home they want to spend time with them, and the kid wants to go out and see friends. Even though this is your child, he or she is an adult, even though they may not act like it all the time. Negotiate with them as you would any other adult you might meet.”
    • Play the game. “One of the biggest arguments college kids and their parents get into is whether to attend church. If parents want the kid to go to church, who is it going to hurt? It doesn't hurt to play the game and do what your parents want some times.”
    • Act like you're meeting for the first time. “(Parents) can avoid a strained relationship by realizing that your child may have changed. Treat him or her like you would a visitor from a foreign country who's only staying for two weeks.”

        Other Class of 2000 graduates, such as Jennifer Oliver, 18, of Park Hills haven't found college life as appealing as they had hoped.

        “I didn't think it would be similar to high school. But in a lot of ways it is,” said the University of San Diego freshman. “People dress up for their 7:30 (a.m.) class like it's a fashion show. I don't see how they can do that.”

        A marine science major who had been fascinated with the ocean since she was 7, Miss Oliver is now questioning her choice of majors. Though she excels at math and science, she has found her studies to be technical and tedious. “It makes me rethink myself. It's kind of frustrating. Why did I want to do this in the first place?”

        For Steven De Man of Indian Hill, college can be compared to the oyster that contains a pearl.

        The 18-year-old studies political science at American University in Washington, D.C., interns in the Capitol Hill office of U.S. Rep. Rob Portman, a Terrace Park Republican, and aspires to become a U.S. Supreme Court justice.

        He so loves the nature of the law and government that he carries a copy of the U.S. Constitution in his wallet and hangs pictures of the Supreme Court justices in his dorm room.

        A paper he wrote on campaign financing taught him much about money and politics.

        “The influence of money here in Washington is sickening,” Mr. De Man said. “If I were a regular citizen who wanted to run for political office I couldn't do it. ... It's an injustice. It's come down to whoever's got the most money.”

The empty chair
        For some Tristate parents, the absence of their child is as tangible as an empty chair at the dinner table.

        To remedy this problem, Sandy Stoneburner of Milford removed one of the five chairs from her dining table — the chair her oldest daughter, Natalie, used to sit in.

        “My brother and sister tease me that I don't have anywhere to sit when I come home,” said 18-year-old Natalie, a freshman at Ohio University in Athens. “They said my mother got upset looking at it.”

        Thrust headlong into empty nest syndrome, many parents undergo lifestyle changes.

        Tom and Peggy Sandman of Westwood are rediscovering each other, a welcome distraction from their only child, Victor, a freshman at Boston University.

        Though they both admit they knew it would be hard without Victor, the Sandmans said they encouraged him to attend school 900 miles away to broaden his experience.

        “We wanted him to learn about the world, not just about going to college,” Mr. Sandman said.

        The drawbacks, though, seem more pronounced because of the distance.

        “(Victor) doesn't communicate with us as much as he used to. He's always going off somewhere,” Mr. Sandman said.

        “Seeing him leave for college was very, very difficult,” his wife added. “He's out there developing into a self-sufficient adult. And when he comes back here now, there will be a different level of interaction between us. It's a matter of him maturing and our relationship changing.”

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