A Parent Summer Survival Guide – RWC Counseling Center
“Return of the College Students: A Parent Summer Survival Guide”
By: Emma W. Hager, LCSW-R, Director of the RWC Counseling Center
The approaching warm weather brings birds singing in the trees, increasing amounts of sun, beautiful flowers and … the return home of the college students! This period of time, and moving back home again for several months, can be a big adjustment for students and parents. This guide will help you navigate the transition.
There is definitely a shift that happens when a child returns home from college for the first time. The person has crossed the line into adulthood, and it helps to treat him or her like one. This is the beginning of your relationship with them as an adult.
“The Return of the College Students” sounds like a bad zombie movie, and it can certainly seem that way at your house, at least the first couple of days. Often students are exhausted when they first return home, and want to sleep a lot, eat real food, and sit and do nothing. They are just feeling exhausted from exams and the unrelenting pace of the semester. Soon they perk up and look around for something to do. They are used to doing something all the time at college and, after a break, they need the freedom to go do things. Sometimes this need to be doing can result in actual help around the house—students who paint the shed or help with the cooking.
Talk about expectations up front. Many parents expect that if students are not taking a class, they will be getting a job or internship. Their schedule will naturally be different than it was in high school; they are now used to managing their own time. Let them figure out their summer plans. Talk about what will be expected of them in terms of helping around the house; ask for what you want and give choices. Discuss how to best let you know if they’ll be staying out late.
Try not to micromanage, as it can cause needless conflict, and you probably do not want to spend your summer fighting with them. Choose battles wisely. These students are getting ready to leave the nest for good, and isn’t that the whole point of child rearing? Make the separation pleasant.
At the same time, let them know what your boundaries are, if needed. If they are doing something that bugs you, ask them not to. They need to realize that the activities that may fly in the dorm may not fly at home. It should be about mutual respect.
Don’t forget to talk to them about their semester. They probably want to tell you about it when they first get home, especially. Make opportunities to talk. You can take them out to lunch or just take them to run errands. Keep the lines of communication open. Show that you still care what is going on with them.
Finally, be open to new ideas and ways of doing things; don’t condemn your student for doing things differently. They went to college to learn new things, after all. Keeping an open mind can give you a new respect for your student and the person they’re becoming as they step into adulthood. It can also help you survive the summer, and build a stronger relationship besides.