In a conversation with Rabbi Benjamin Samuels of Newton, Massachusetts, in February 2001, Rabbi Samuels noted, “As parents we say we want to see our children gain their independence, but to some extent we also want them to be clones of us.”29 Issues that Rabbi Samuels has helped parents and students struggle with include how to maintain faith while away at college.
Over the years, he has met with several students who expressed concern about observance of different ritual norms, for example,wearing a yarmulke or keeping strictly kosher, while away at school. While the students began the conversation with concerns about specific observances, over time he found that what the students were really saying is, “I’m having doubts about my general level of religious observance” or “College life is challenging my views of my religion.”
Clergy and parents with whom I spoke also described cases in which students have become far more rigorously observant at college than their families. This can be a source of tension as well, with children, in effect, rejecting what they view as the watered-down faith of their parents. Learning to let go in the spiritual realm may be just as important as in other aspects of your son’s or daughter’s life.