Returning home during your college summer break doesn’t have to feel like you are marching into a war zone or, at best, a never-ending tug of war match.

Father and sonI propose trading the negativity surrounding this situation with a conscious choice to focus on the possibilities to learn “real world” skills alongside your 40+ aged summer roommates. These are valuable skills you can use to navigate life, especially after college.

Tony Wagner, who’s the founder and co-director of the Change Leadership Group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education offers us the “Seven Survival Skills,” a quasi-primer to the competencies necessary to succeed as a 21st century citizen. Summer break with your parents can be an excellent time to practice and strengthen these seven skills that can be the staple to a successful professional and personal life.


  1. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

While many parents are willing to offer additional independence now that you are a college student, understand that the house rules won’t always align with your new expectations. Throughout the summer, you will be presented with opportunities to fine tune your problem solving skills where dissonance exists between your views and your parent’s views. When you start your first job after college, you will be better prepared to problem solve with your boss versus getting heated up when you don’t have it your way.


  1. Collaboration, 3. Communication, and 4. Analyzing

The first step to problem solving with your parents when you are negotiating with them about taking a road trip over the summer heavily depends on your ability to collaborate and communicate with them. That means that if parents are not in favor of your trip, you are willing to have a conversation with them and collaborate on modifying the details of your trip. Maybe they are open to the idea if the trip is shorter or if you show them that you will be able to finance the trip without demands on their budget. That’s when your analytical skills play a role in learning about the key points that your parents are concerned about, and thus you are able to address them in your communication with them. Strengthening these skills will become critical in your future marriage or as you are sitting at the board table.


  1. Adaptability

The real world is constantly changing. We are more interdependent than ever so it’s likely that you will have to work with someone from a different country, with different cultural norms. Having the agility and openness to alter how you live with your parents over the summer will serve as practice as you learn to work in fast-paced environments that will continuously require you to adapt.


  1. Initiative

The more you show your parents that you are responsible, the less they generally tend to worry about you. Take the initiative to prove that you can be a responsible young adult, and you may be surprised by the additional freedom you are given to make decisions without their consultation while you are at home. It has to start with you. In your professional life, those who take the initiative will, more often than not, get the promotion.


  1. Curiosity

This is perhaps my favorite skill to practice during your time with your parents: learning to be curious about their lives. Experts describe college years as the timeframe when students start seeing parents as friends. Each one of our parents carries years of experience and a thousand stories to share about life. Become interested in them and show them that you care. A.k.a. – Love them and respect them as the individuals who are willing to sacrifice so you can succeed in life. The ability to build relationships cannot be underestimated as a precursor to reaching your goals.