I couldn’t wait for my kids to come home from college and envisioned our time being spent playing games, baking, going out for coffee …you know, the stuff you see in the movies! Much to my surprise, things didn’t go the way I had anticipated! Since we moved them off to college, they had become young adults, making their own decisions and living on a chaotic schedule. So from one “seasoned” college parent to you first timers, here is my advice to help make the most of your time together with as little tension or disappointment as possible.
- Let them catch up on sleep. Most students have just completed finals and have been up cramming for exams or writing papers. If your son or daughter comes home with bags under their eyes or sleeps until noon, don’t be alarmed. College life can cause a dramatic change in their schedule because of studying, their social life, and other activities. Give them a few days in the luxury of their own bed to catch up on much needed rest. It’ll put them in better spirits – making them much easier to deal with!
- Set some ground rules. For several months, they have been the keeper of their own schedule, which means their new found independence may cause a bit of friction where rules are concerned. Obviously you can’t expect your student(s) to revert back to their high school days, but they also need to recognize that living at home means a more structured environment. Discuss your concerns and expectations with them while recognizing their independence as a young adult. You might ask them to text if they’ll be out later than originally planned, and to not disrupt the rest of the household when they come home in the wee hours of the morning. If there are younger siblings at home, you certainly don’t want your college student to set a bad example! Politely let them know what is and isn’t allowed, while showing mutual respect for one another.
- Plan ahead, communicate, and be flexible. If you’ve scheduled important events, communicate them with your student. Let them know exact dates and times for those get-togethers. Using a family calendar will eliminate double scheduling or hurt feelings.Although you may have many plans swirling around in your head, you have to be flexible with your student(s). They will need some “down time” and will want to catch up with old friends and do some exploring to see what’s changed since they have been gone. Allow them some time to be carefree again! Although it’s a parent’s instinct, too much questioning will cause tension and withdrawal. You’ll be amazed at some of the great conversations you can have, if you just give them time and space to open up to you!
- Make them accountable. It’s one thing to give your student time to unwind and recharge, but it’s not right to let them walk all over you. You may want to pamper them while they’re at home by doing their laundry, cooking for them and letting them sleep in, but there comes a point where they need to be accountable as well! Ask them to help with household chores or errands to lighten the load while they’re back for winter break.
- Stock your kitchen! Your kids have been eating cafeteria food, Ramen noodles, pizza rolls, and anything convenient to keep their tummies full while away from home. They are ready for your home cooked meals and their favorite snacks that you’ve always kept in the house. So make sure to plan meals, have ingredients readily available, and leave time for a lot of baking. This is their retreat for a few weeks and there is nothing better than mom and dad’s cooking!
While this is a time to recharge for them, it’s also a great time to discuss how things are going with school and their personal lives. Offer love, support and encouragement to help them face the next semester with confidence. Most importantly, this is the time of year to celebrate, relax, and enjoy being around your friends and family. Don’t get too stressed out about trying to fit everything in during these next few weeks. Just treasure your time together as a family! Happy holidays everyone!