Parents look forward to their college freshmen returning home for summer break. Anxious to spend time with them, they plan to make favorite meals, go to the movies, do a little shopping, maybe go on a family vacation. While all of these things sound great, the reality is that college freshmen have lived a year away from home and have experienced independence and self-reliance to a much greater degree than living in their parents’ home may require or allow. Parents need to tell their returning young adults what is expected of them, and they also need to listen closely to their college students when they express their feelings and opinions.
Parents who have spent a near year apart from their college freshman may find it a little dizzying to reorient to life together. But as the normalcy returns, may their thoughts now and then turn to that other nine months, long ago, which passed equally fast and in the end, left us just as dazzled by the new person who came home to live with us. – Susan Bonifant, The Other Nine Months-When your college student returns home for the first time – The Washington Post
Parents send their children off to college to be educated, learn about the world and prepare for adulthood. We can’t expect them to return home to their pre-college status. Compromises must be made on both sides to avoid arguments and disappointment.
1. Present Reasonable Expectations About Summer Break
Your young adult will most likely have a summer job or be doing volunteer work or taking a summer school class. He will also want to spend time with high school friends who he hasn’t seen for a while, and decompress from the stress of the first year of college. Expecting your young adult to be at the dinner table each evening for a family meal is not reasonable, nor is it fair. After a year of independence, young adults will want similar freedoms and options while at home. Your young adult shouldn’t treat your house like a hotel, but he shouldn’t be required to rejoin the family as a child, either.
2. Schedule Events in Advance
You may think it’s ok to let your young adult know on Saturday that all the aunts and uncles are coming for a visit Sunday and he’s expected to spend the day at home, but he may have already bought tickets to a baseball game or have plans for an X-Box 1 marathon with his buddies or a movie date with his girlfriend. Respecting his time is as important as respecting any other adult’s time. You may think “he’s living in my house, he should do what I ask,” and perhaps that’s true – to a point. He will appreciate your taking his time into consideration when planning activities that he is expected to attend.
3. Go Easy on the Curfew
Remember, your college freshman – soon to be sophomore – has been doing whatever he wants, whenever he wants, for the past year. Coming home to a midnight curfew on weekends is just not fair to him, and will, most likely, put you at odds more often than you would like. A good compromise is to ask your young adult to text you if he will be out later than is comfortable for you – for example, if you go to bed at 11 pm and want to know when you can expect to hear a key in the door, ask for a text by 10:45 or so letting you know his plans. Though they can – and probably will – change sometimes, it’s courteous for him to keep you informed so you can sleep at night.
4. Your Young Adult Should Not Be Your Guest
It’s ok to ask for help around the house, and it’s ok to expect him to keep his mess confined to his bedroom. Do NOT go in his bedroom, however, unless you are prepared to clean it or keep quiet. As long as your young adult is respectful of the shared areas in your home – kitchen, bathroom, family room, etc – where he sleeps and dresses should be off-limits to you, if only out of respect for his privacy – and your sanity.
5. Expect Noise and Mess Sometimes
One of the best things about coming home for the summer is spending time with high school friends. Chances are they will be stopping by your house every now and then. Enjoy this reminder of your child’s high school days. Visit with them for a bit and then quietly leave the room, allowing them their time to reconnect with each other. Your child is not the only one who has become a young adult – they all have!
6. Enjoy the Moments When They Need Their Mom and Dad
It’s almost guaranteed that at some point during the summer months your young adult, soon to be sophomore will want to act like and be treated as a little kid again – whether it’s a summer cold or a broken heart that needs tending to. Give in and enjoy! You will all feel better if you do.