When college kids come home... 3 steps to ease the adjustment
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 warn
you that things may feel different and there may be a few intense conversations ahead! You may be wondering what the big deal is, after all, it's still your kid, right? Well, yes and no. Yes, it's still your child but he or she is not necessarily the same kiddo you dropped off in the dorm room last August. College kids experience changes in independence, social groups and attitudes while they are away from the influence of their family. During their occasional short visits over the holidays you might have caught glimpses of these changes but in the chaos of the holidays it might not have really impacted your family. Now that summer is here and your college student is back home, I wanted to share with you a few tips to help bridge the gaps between you and your student. Tip 1: Have a family meeting
Let's be honest, things have changed at home. Whenever a family member steps out of the dynamic for an extended time the remaining family members slide into a "new normal."
You may have new routines, different chores assigned and expectations which 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 student 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
Summer job expectations
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." 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 getting 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 under age for drinking, be clear that no matter what they did at college, this is a 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 a year away to practice self-care, independence and "adulting." Will they get it all right? Not always, but that's how they learn. 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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