Navigating New Boundaries as they Spread Their Wings

A young person reads their phone next to the clothes dryer while waiting for laundry to dry, a common activity for many college students returning from home from school during breaks.

Your Widener student bounces through the door with a bag of laundry in hand, asking to borrow the car as they prepare to meet up with their high school pack. And so the holiday break begins! Things will be a little different this year, as your child returns home only to exert their independence after several weeks experiencing the new found freedoms of college.

We asked Angela Corbo, chair of Widener’s Communication Studies department, about advice for parents on fostering their children’s independence while maintaining boundaries in the family environment. Here are some great tips for managing the shifting family dynamic and for evolving at home with your emerging adult.

– Foster the sense of autonomy by sharing how you respect that they are becoming an adult, but let them know there are continued expectations in the household to show that same respect to their family.

– Example: They may not have a curfew anymore, but in order to respect the household and not wake everyone up at 2 a.m., or make parents worry, agree upon a reasonable time to get home.


– Understand their boundaries for direction. You may want them to take certain classes next semester or join a specific activity but allow them to architect their choices as well. Prompting and providing input can help students understand a good starting point rather than telling them what to do.


– Acknowledge to them what you are feeling, too. “This is hard for me as well. I’m your mom and always want to be a part of your life. It’s difficult to make this transition into a time when you don’t need me as much.” Remind them that you are coming from a good place – one of love and respect.


– Approach them if you think they are struggling with emotions, simply to ensure they are OK. It is natural for them to resist, and you should not take that personally. Commit together to getting them help when and where it is needed. (Take a walk together, grab a cup of coffee – talk in a place they are comfortable with you.)


Students will always need the guidance of their parents and caring family members. Acknowledge the change and make the journey an open conversation toward balance.