Mary Jo Podgurski

Column Mary Jo Podgurski

Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski is the founder and director of the Washington Health System Teen Outreach. She responds to 68 questions from young people daily and has written 'Ask Mary Jo' since 2005.

Share feelings, concerns with parents

Share feelings, concerns with parents

September 20, 2017

Q.I’m starting my junior year of college. I’ve done well. I come home every summer. I love my mom, but she acts like I’m still a kid when I’m home. She wants to know where I’m going and fusses about what time I come in. I’m 20 now, I’ll be 21 soon, I’m not a child. I’ve been away at school four semesters, and I studied one of those semesters abroad. I have a job, and I’m paying my own way through school. How can I convince her that I’m old enough to take care of myself? If she doesn’t change, I plan to remain at school next summer. Thanks for trying to help.


Mary Jo’s response: I hear your frustration. You live independently when away from home, and would like to be respected as an adult.

Perhaps if I try to explain your mom’s instincts, you can develop some empathy for her actions. I can relate to your mom. I was an RN and childbirth educator when I had my babies, yet I was emotionally unprepared for the love and intense feelings I experienced when I became a mother. The desire to protect your baby can be nearly overwhelming.

With time and support, parents learn to allow their children the space they need to grow and develop. You’ve proven your maturity. I believe you’ve earned the right to want your independence when with your mom.

I think your mom knows you can handle living on your own. Connecting with her may be as easy as it was to ask me your question. Communicate your wishes and explain why you’re considering remaining at school next summer. Be kind; remember, her anxiety for you is based on her love.

You’re correct. You are no longer a child. Your bond with your mom needs to continue, even as it evolves. Show her respect, stand for what you need as an adult, and talk with her openly. Good luck.

Q.I’ve returned to college when I don’t really want to continue. It’s my sophomore year and I’m miserable. I already am messing up in my classes because I don’t really get this stuff. My freshman year was horrible. I ended with a poor GPA, but I didn’t party. I genuinely tried. I wanted to go to trade school after high school, but my parents wouldn’t let me. I think it would be better to be honest and disappoint them now, than fail out and waste more of my money. My boyfriend says my parents won’t understand. I say the loans are mine, and it’s my decision. Who’s right?


Mary Jo’s response:Your life choices are yours, especially when you’re taking responsibility for your finances. I admire your desire to respect your parents.

Have you recently tried talking with your parents about your wishes? Do they know you’re miserable?

There are many paths in life; not everyone enjoys college. Attending a trade school is honorable and can lead to a productive life.

As with the first question, the key here is communication. Hiding your feelings from your parents helps no one. Speak with a career counselor at school to see if any of your credits would transfer to a trade school or an associate degree program. Bring solid information to your parents. Listen to their reasons for you remaining in college.

If they still disagree with your decision, you will need to make a difficult choice. Honoring their dreams for you might show respect, but following your own dreams will give you joy. When we love our work, it’s not really a job. You are worthy of a career where you’re happy and productive. Good luck.

Have a question? Send it to Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski’s email



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