'It's different now': Advice for when your college- age child comes home
Keep in mind that over the past few months, they have developed new and exciting relationships, new interests, and perhaps, confidence, courage and adventure. They may want to travel over break to see old or new friends. They may need to touch base with friends on Skype, text or cellphones. These are important relationships to them, and it may, at times, take them away from family planned events or traditions. Remember when they were 4 years old and refused to go somewhere? And as a parent you say, "OK. Stay. See you later and then you walk out of their room and sit on the couch in the living room so they'll come out? Well, they may not come out now. Don't take that personally, but understand that they are also struggling now with how they relate to their parents. Their new independence puts that previous relationship in flux, and they are trying to test out boundaries of the new relationship and maintain their newfound identity and independence. Talk to them in advance about things that you really want to see them be a part of. They are still a significant part of the family, but also be willing to have compromise for times they need to do their own thing.
While your son or daughter was away at college, new routines were developed. They have a new way of approaching time and their daily life. This can be a difficult adjustment for both you and them when they are taken out of the college environment and returned to home, a place where they had different routines. They might not eat breakfast anymore, unless you count Starbucks Cup o' Joe as a full meal. They may suddenly not seem to be as good at cleaning up or picking up after themselves, and why are they checking Facebook every five minutes? You will see changes, but remember, they are still your son or daughter and they still need that relationship. Allow them the freedom at home to have their own space and compromise with them a bit that's the space to leave your clothes on the bed, chair or floor not the shared space. This is the same rule they have at college.
Regardless of if they are at home or college, respect always applies. That does not change and if, for example, they have developed a new vernacular since leaving home and you hear a few "f-bombs" here or there, remind them of the need for respect. Your relationship with them now is built on respect. No longer is it about authority or control.
Lastly, most importantly, and research on college students tells us this, the relationship they have with their parental figures is still one of the most important relationships they have. That remains the case in college. In spite of growing pains, disagreements or challenges that might arise, keep in mind, they have desired to get back home for likely the past few weeks. They've been dreaming about a home cooked meal. They've wanted to sit at the kitchen table over some iced tea and talk about what theyve learned, or stay up late with the family playing Scrabble again. They've been waiting to see what it will be like sleeping in their own bed again, walking around the ol' neighborhood, perhaps even coming back to high school and seeing a home basketball game in the gym. And while they are without a doubt different than they were when you dropped them off or sent them on their way four months ago, and while the relationship is different, it is not erased. It has simply adjusted. Youre place in their life doesn't adjust. They need you still and they want you to be there.
Oh, I should explain how the beginning conversation ends. So after he says "it's different now," I respond, "Yeah, but is better or worse different?"
"Im not really sure, at times it's better, at times it feels worse, but home's the same. I'm different."
"Sure," I calmly reply and pause.
We kind of stand there for a second, and then he said, "But it was sure nice being home and seeing my family. That never changes."
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