How To Prepare For Your College Student's Return Over Summer
Another school year has passed and your college student is coming home for summer, which brings with it a range of emotions. One of the most important considerations for a smooth transition back home is to manage expectations - both on your part and theirs.
The summer after your student’s first year of college is arguably the most challenging. Even if your student has been living on campus and is not fully responsible for themselves financially, they have spent the last year with a level of independence they’ve likely never previously experienced.
They’ve become accustomed to coming and going from their residence hall or apartment on their own schedule without reporting to anyone where they are going, who they are going with, or when they will return.
While you may be looking forward to “the way things were before,” it’s unrealistic for you to expect they will happily give up their newly found independence to revert back to the expectations they grew up with prior to college. It’s equally unrealistic for your student to expect that they will continue to have the level of freedom at home as they do at college - they are, after all, under your roof with your rules.
How can you set everyone up for your student’s seamless transition back home? It’s time to re-evaluate house rules and the best way to accomplish a smooth start to the summer is to include your student in the decision making around the new expectations.
To lay the foundation for a productive conversation, here are a few things to consider:
Be aware of your presence. Your student is in the middle of their transition to adulthood. Your acknowledgement of this through the words and tone you choose, will have a significant impact on how engaged your student is in the conversation.
Listen first. While it might be challenging not to step into the authority role as the parent, listening first shows that you are invested in finding solutions that work for both of you.
Ask questions. There is always a reason behind the decisions we make. When you find yourself on opposite ends of the spectrum of an expectation, ask questions like “what do you gain from this expectation/rule/practice?” “how would that be different at home?” “what is the impact of that choice/expectation/rule on others in the house?” Asking these kinds of questions can provide clarity as to what your student is really seeking, which can help you move quickly to an agreement.
Seek compromise. Recognize that both you and your student will be making accommodations during the process. Your student will be giving up some of the independence they experienced while they were away at college and you will be letting go a little more.
As you prepare for the conversation, consider it in three phases:
What were the house rules before your student went to college?
What rules did your student live by while they were away?
What is a realistic compromise between these two realities?
If you have other children at home, it is beneficial to share the new expectations with them as well. Not because they apply to those who still live at home, but as a way to proactively address any feelings of unfairness. It also helps prepare them for the transition they will experience as they approach their transition from the home.
College can be one of the most challenging times in your student’s transition to adulthood, but when you are able to navigate it together as a team, it will most certainly lay the foundation for what your relationship will be as adults.
Written by Brittany Salsman, Founder and Owner Life Lived by Design
About the Author
Brittany is a former educator who now owns a coaching business. Her Masters Degree is in Higher Education, College Student Development, and she now works with students and young professionals to reverse engineer their lives for fulfillment.