4 Steps to a Great Summer with Your College Students
By Julie Fender LPC. CEAP
In a few short weeks college students will be returning home for the summer. We look forward to catching up and spending some quality time and they look forward to some much-needed R and R. Shortly thereafter, parents often discover that their son or daughter is not quite the same person they dropped off last fall.
This time of transition often comes with differing expectations of one another, which if not managed and communicated, can lead to conflict. Parents often expect “kids” to fall back into their previous roles in the family and college age “emerging adults” often expect to continue the autonomy and freedom they experienced while away. We all have to adjust to this new normal as we move from our well-known “parent/child” relationship into the new territory of “adult/adult” relationship. As parents, it can be difficult to recognize how our ingrained parenting behaviors that were needed and helpful in raising and protecting young children, no longer work with our now young adults.
Here are a few strategies to make the summer more enjoyable for all!
1. Recognize and respect their developing independence.
Remember they have managed themselves all year.We can demonstrate this by letting go of how they do things and making suggestions and requests instead of demands.We can resist offering quick solutions to problems and see ourselves more as mentors or consultants.Our days of giving orders are over!
2. Communicate and negotiate new expectations and boundaries.
Discuss expectations about money, use of vehicles, household responsibilities, and using time productively. Make sure this is a conversation more than a declaration. Remember healthy boundaries are about using freedoms responsibly. There is still room for the “my house my rules” approach, but reserve it for the really important issues that would otherwise threaten a safe and healthy home
3. Have the “How to be good roommates” talk.
They are likely very used to having roommates so this will be a familiar concept.This approach moves us away from permission granting and toward mutual consideration and respect.This could include cleanliness of common areas of the house, communicating plans about being home (or not) for dinner or what time to expect one another to be home.It could mean letting others in the home know you’re going the grocery or drug store and offering to pick up something for them. See this as a courtesy extended to one another.
4. Don’t change your schedule or alter your social life too much.
It’s really normal to miss your privacy and quiet house that you started to enjoy while they were away and healthy for them to see that you have a life separate from them. Remember, too, that they are capable and perfectly OK without our doting and supervision.
Finally, enjoy getting to know your kids as emerging adults! In many ways this is seeing the fruits of our labor as parents. Embrace how they have changed and grown. Accept that they will discover their own paths in their own timing. And, lastly, a little revisiting of our old roles can be comforting. A part of us still wants to nurture them and a part of them still wants to be cared for because August will be here before we know it!
Julie Fender can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 703-636-2888 ext.12.