May is the time for finishing up the school year and shifting into summer. It's also the time when college kids return home, along with all their "stuff." I just wanted to take a few minutes to remind you things may feel different.
Tip 1: Acknowldege the changes Let's be honest, things have changed at home. Whenever a family member steps out of the dynamic for an extended period of time the remaining family members slide into a "new normal."
You may have new routines, chores were reassigned, and expectations were discussed and worked through. One topic that may be worth discussing is morning routines so everyone gets to work/summer camps/summer jobs on time.
Tip 2: Discuss your expectations
There is usually a honeymoon period when your child first returns home. You're excited to have him back and he is excited to have a break from the demands of college classes. Take time to enjoy this transition time of having your kiddo back home.
Eventually, you and your child will need to talk about expectations while he is home for the summer. Topics may include:
Getting his clothes, boxes, etc put away in a designated area
Keeping his room clean (and define what that means!), trust me, your standards and his roommate's are probably very different!
Pitching in around the house
Morning and/or evening routines
Tip 3: Respect his independence
This can be the biggest battle between parents and returning college students. Your child may come home expecting to have the freedom he had while living in a dorm or campus apartment. You may expect him to be home at a "reasonable hour" and that may mean different things for each of you. A few things that may help:
Approach this conversation with negotiation in mind
Be willing to compromise (i.e., "You don't need to tell me what you're doing every time you leave the house, just give me an idea of what time you'll be home so I don't worry.")
Be clear of your needs as well. Your child coming home at 2 a.m. and loudly making a snack or watching tv may disturb your efforts to get a solid night's sleep for work the next day. Work with your child to find a middle ground that works for both of you.
If your child is still underage for drinking, be clear that no matter what he did at college, this is non-negotiable at home. Your family rules and values are still enforceable within your domain. (As my dad would say, "My house, my rules. Don't like it, there's the door.")
Enlist your child's help in brainstorming solutions that work as a win-win for both of you!
Lastly, remember that your child has had time away to practice self-care, independence, and "adulting." Will he always get it right? Not always, but that's how he learns. Parenting a young adult is like walking a tight wire, trying to find the balance between giving him guidance and giving him room to practicing being a grown-up. I hope these tips will help as you and your college student adapt to this new phase of the parent-child relationship! Be patient, listen to learn, and be open to negotiation (within reason).
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