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  • Jul 23, 2014
  • Updated: 5:47pm
CommentInsight & Opinion

Praise parents for supporting their child in transition to university life

Amy Lai says universities should seek to ease anxieties as children transition to a new life

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 September, 2013, 3:04am

Joseph Sung Jao-yiu, the vice-chancellor of Chinese University, recently advised parents who accompanied their children to campus on the first day of term to "let go" so they can learn to be independent. He also emphasised the importance for students to approach such issues as Occupy Central rationally and peacefully, and to make independent judgments.

The local media often tends to portray students in a negative light at the start of a new academic year, highlighting their apparent immaturity. In past years, they have been lambasted for the lewd games played during student orientation which, occasionally, resulted in sexual harassment complaints filed by new students coerced into participating. Interestingly, the focus has shifted this year, to descriptions of clingy students and their protective parents.

There is a big difference, however, between parents showing an interest in their children's school life and seeking to interfere with their education.

Take American culture, which values independence, as an example. In the past, some US parents have tried to prevent public elementary schools from exposing their children to curriculums that featured gay families as examples of diversity.

Amid strong protests, courts have ruled in favour of the schools, holding that parents can decide where to send their children, but school authorities should determine how those children are educated.

The Hong Kong media has also tended to overlook the big difference between parents showing support for their children and overprotection by refusing to "let go". It's not uncommon for schools and even colleges in the US to play an active role in acquainting parents with their environment to ease any worries.

Harvard, for instance, holds a "Freshman Parents Weekend" every October, a two-day programme to help parents learn about the college through campus visits, so they can better support their children in their adjustment to university life.

While such formal programmes usually end after the first year at college, it's not unheard of for successful applicants to bring along their parents to the finest American graduate schools. Some even sit in on classes. I remember at college there were times when I wished I could have brought my parents to campus without the fear of being criticised or appearing immature.

Hong Kong universities should seek to balance parents' desire to learn more about where their children are going with the need to avoid casting students in an unfavourable light. And, as long as Hong Kong's universities keep producing successful graduates, perhaps the media should turn their attention elsewhere.

Amy Lai, a lawyer who was educated at Cambridge and Boston, has written extensively on literature, culture and law


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The overprotective parents even to college bound students rightly the parents in Hong Kong should be advised to let go of their children. Their concerns often exceed in preparing a smoother transition but a continuation in dictating what a kid must study. It is unfortunate that while parents misbehave in this regard but so as their children who would obediently obliged. There should be more not less in calling parents in Hong Kong to let go of their children for the sake for them to grow into maturity and responsibility. There is a mark difference between American parents from Hong Kong parents. Former’s motive is to aid transition and perhaps for both themselves and their children but standby to help when is needed. Please also read today’s column by Stephen Vines.
I imagine most parents would not have been in universities themselves, so this kind of involvement would help them to appreciate the new world that their offspring are entering. They shouldn't be shut out.
Involvement does not necessarily mean taking over.
Immature students can't be independent overnight. The growing process ought to have started earlier in secondary school.
The author seems to overlook the point that the parents' desire to learn more about their adult children by accompanying them to classes does not mean that they have the right to interfere with the teaching and learning policies of the university; raising unreasonable complaints; threatening university staff and teachers by commissioning their legal representatives to send legal letters seeking overruling sensible and fair decisions, as well as over-protection of their poor, never grown up child.
The nature and objectives of parents programmes in overseas institutions, in particular those offered by prestigious US institutions, are much different form that organized by local universities.


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