The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, February 15, 2008

Features

CCHS seniors: are they ready to live independently?

In a world of latchkey kids and rising divorce rates, there seems to be a number of both over-

Carrie Abend. (Photo by Lois d'Annunzio)

protective and under-protective parents. Some are concerned that their kids will not be independent enough by the time they reach college, while others would be happy if their kids went to a local school and came home every weekend to get their laundry done and have a home-cooked meal. At Concord-Carlisle High School (CCHS), there is a wide range of all of these parents, and thus, all different levels of independence shown by teenagers.

To reach a better understanding of teenage self-sufficiency in this town, I took a random sample of 20 graduating seniors who live in Carlisle. I interviewed ten girls and ten boys over the phone, all of whom attend CCHS and are of legal driving age, to try to find out if they are taking too much care of themselves or if they feel over-protected by their parents. The results cleared up some long-held teenage myths, and revealed the hidden benefits of growing up "too fast."

Self-sufficient students

The first statistic that stood out was that 11 of the 20 students are capable of living alone. This is based on the fact that they are woken up by an alarm, have a steady source of income other than their parents, have access to a car that they drive to school and activities and cook for themselves either often or most of the time.

While this number did not surprise me, it was interesting to note that nine of those 11 reported that they are never left alone overnight, while the other two said they rarely were. This information shows that parents may be underestimating their children's ability to take care of themselves.

One myth about teenagers is that they sneak out to parties when their parents think they are going to a study group. Since I didn't expect 20 seniors to confess to such a crime, I asked them what the likelihood was that they would be able to go one place after saying they were going somewhere else. Eighteen reported that they could "easily" pull this off; note that the question was not whether they have done or will do this, but if they could. The two remaining students said that they probably could, but wouldn't risk it. I imagine that this information makes parents a little shaky, if not downright terrified, but I assure you there is no reason to put a GPS on your kid the next time he says he is going to CVS.

The single-parent household

The frustrations of a single parent are easy to understand. Often, when I am just finishing up dinner, my mother comes home from work, drops her things on the counter, sees that I am done eating and cries out, "No! I was going to cook up some pasta/chicken/vegetables for you" I always reassure her that she is a great mother and that it's fine; I don't mind.

While my mother is a sensible person (and knows that if I waited for her to get home to eat, I would be dehydrated and starving), sometimes the meals I make for myself come with a side of guilt for her. I think that a lot of single parents can relate to this — working full-time leaves children to "fend for themselves," which makes it sound like kids are lost in the wilderness with just a flashlight and a pack of gum; it's wildly dramatic.

Although only three of the 20 students I interviewed live with one parent, all of them had jobs, cooked for themselves and reported that they received a good amount of financial and domestic support from their parent(s). The surprise at the bottom of the box was that they all were "happy" with their level of independence and did not want anything to change.

Independence and happiness

Of the 12 students who come home from school to an empty house, only three said that they were "not completely satisfied" with their parental support. All of the kids who return to a parent at home said that they were happy. However, there was no correlation between having a stay-at-home parent and knowing how to cook or do laundry — even teenagers fully supported by their parents are motivated to learn how to take care of themselves.

Some parents may be worried that their kids are too independent. Independence is typically correlated with freedom and happiness, but with that freedom come laundry, cooking, having a job — some teenagers are reluctant to take on those responsibilities.

Students who cook and drive

Other trends emerged from my results. All of the 12 students who cook for themselves either "often" or "usually" also had jobs. Those who have cars are more likely to be left home alone overnight than those who don't have a car or share one.

I think it is fair to say that the survey of 20 Carlisle seniors was successful in providing a clearer window through which to view our youth. While the effect of a parent's support clearly matters, it is the personal relationship with the child that matters more, not the fact that he is left alone a lot or cooks for himself.

When we go off to college in the fall, some students will have to live on ramen noodles, and some will wear their entire wardrobe before figuring out the washing machine. It's nice to know that there are plenty of CCHS kids who will at least get some nutrition and not worry about smelling bad.

From this survey, I can see that a good number of us are not just eager to live on our own, but, more importantly, we are also capable.

Editor's note: Carrie Abend reports for the Mosquito on issues of interest at Concord-Carlisle High School.


2008 The Carlisle Mosquito