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The Surprising Reason Email Is Good for You

I’m not going to pretend to be a hip Gen-Z (as evidenced by the fact that I just said “hip Gen-Z”). But I have some insider information about why your parents may struggle to treat you as an adult and how technology can make it easier.

Why some parents are clingy.

Your parents have spent your whole life being responsible for you: physically, emotionally, financially. During the teen years, the balance of power starts to change, and that can create friction. The accepted narrative is that it’s because teens are moody and combative.

What we parents often don’t admit is that part of it is our fault, too. We have trouble letting go. We don’t give you enough credit. We don’t know what your life is like, so we can trivialize your challenges. We mock your music or hobbies, even though the music of our own era literally resulted in “parental advisory” labeling that continues to this day.

Here’s the thing. Becoming the parent of an adult is a really strange process.

In high school, while you were becoming more independent and planning your life, our role didn’t particularly change. You still lived in our house. We still paid most of the bills and did most of the chores. We were still legally responsible for you. We recognized that you were maturing, of course, and we were starting to think about what comes next. Nevertheless, while you were sprinting down the path to becoming an adult, we were only taking baby steps to becoming the parent of an adult.

Then, we dropped you off at college and were summarily fired from the job that had been the core of our identity since the day you were born. Turns out … that’s hard. Sending you to Pitt in the midst of a pandemic, with your college experience looking nothing like we imagined, only makes it harder. Never have our protective instincts been in higher gear, just as we’re supposed to be letting go.

How email can help.

Technology is a tool. It’s meant to help you do your work, manage your personal and professional relationships, and share important information. Email is one of those tools. 

I get it – you don’t use email. It’s not a conversation in real time. You can just text someone or post to Instagram or Snapchat (or whatever social media platform you prefer). There are newer and easier forms of communication that can connect you with other people at a moment’s notice.

Ironically, the limitations of email are precisely why it can be so useful. Email creates a separate space that is not intimately tied to your daily personal life. It is an independent channel: you decide when to read it and when to respond; you control when and how you are notified of messages; and you decide what devices you check it on.

Create a healthy boundary between you and your parents.

Your parents will miss you and will desperately want to know how you’re doing. And you’ll probably miss us a little too. (If not, feel free to lie and tell us you do.) You’ll be busy, and won’t want your parents randomly texting or calling you all the time. It’s important to find a middle ground between being at each other’s beck and call and total radio silence.  

Email lets you keep in touch in a way that respects healthy boundaries. Your parents can support you, but not be hovering in real time. You can keep them in the loop, but only divulge what you choose. Email is a great tool to help you smoothly transition into a supportive parent-adult child relationship. And if there’s an emergency, you can still text or call for an immediate response.

Email is good for more than sending your parents a quick update.

Download the Outlook app or favorite Pitt Email in My Pitt, and check your Pitt email account a few times a week. Besides keeping in touch with your parents, it also matters because the university sends a lot of important information by email. Especially during a pandemic, when things are in flux and have temporarily moved online.

Even after the emails about the new semester's hybrid classroom technology slow down, you’ll still get notices that would be a major problem to miss: A message from the Office of Financial Aid about your tuition payment. An announcement about when add/drop ends. A video you should be prepared to talk about in the next class. So it’s a good idea to start getting used to it from day 1. 

Here are some helpful resources for using Pitt email: