The months of May and June bring excitement for parents whose kids are in college. Soon their scholars will be home to enjoy the months of summer under their parents’ roofs. While the idea of your son or daughter being home for three whole months seems like a dream come true, for many families, it can be a nightmare. When your child has just enjoyed a year of freedom and then has to return to his high school rules, tension can quickly mount. With some understanding, parents and their college students can find a balance that everyone can enjoy. Many of these conflicts can be resolved before things get out of hand by considering what your college student has experienced during the school year.
Here Are 6 Things Your College Student Wishes You Knew
1. They Have Not Had to Check In With Anyone
When you are eighteen and you live on campus, very few people keep track of your coming and going. Returning mom’s texts are the only source of accountability most university students have. While parents were there to manage every schedule change just a year or two ago, time away from home changes things. Your child has not had to inform anyone of her whereabouts or tentative schedules for an entire school year, so give her some wiggle room as she acclimates back to life at home.
2. They Keep Different Hours Now
One of the shocks of my freshman year was that most meetings started at 10 p.m. I went from a 10 p.m. bedtime to a 10 p.m. conference hour in a week’s time. Most college students no longer operate on a nine to five schedule, and they mean no offense when they are still awake at three in the morning. Some even take jobs stocking shelves overnight so that work does not interfere with class and study time. Even your daughter who went to bed early every night may have changed her ways.
3. Food Has Been Readily Available
Many college cafeterias are open 24 hours a day, even though mom’s kitchen does not share the same schedule. If the school’s dining hall is closed, there is always an alternative and usually one that lets you swipe money from your meal plan, which makes you feel like you are getting free food. At home, groceries have to be purchased if one wants a burger in the midst of a student’s non-traditional evening hours. While food is available with no forethought or planning during the school year, adapting to a limited-inventory kitchen over the summer months will take some time.
4. Chores Are Optional in the Dorm
Chores in the dorms are different than at home. Cleaning up after dinner in college means taking your tray to the dish pit and heading on your way. Cleaning up after dinner at home likely means washing the dishes, wiping down the table, and putting away the leftovers. Even with eighteen years of your teaching, a few months away can easily erase all of that work. My school had room inspections twice a month to make sure nothing was living in our rooms (other than college students), but other than those two days a month we could live as sloppily as we pleased.
5. They Will Probably Have Some Crazy Ideas About Life
A college professor is bound to unwind your years of wisdom, no matter how hard you worked to teach your kids everything you know. I went on a two-day canoe trip with my mom after my freshman year of college. For 48 hours my mom graciously nodded as I questioned many of the life lessons she had taught me. If I could talk to that naïve girl today, I would tell her to pipe down. We all do it. A few months of different ideas, new influences, and experiences and all freshmen think they have life figured out. Just give them some time, they will settle down; we all realize how wise our parents are eventually.
6. They Do Not Understand Your Relationship Either
Life after high school is a confusing time for everyone. Your child no longer depends on you for everything, yet he is not quite autonomous, either. He wants to live without needing mommy to rescue him, but some days he still needs help. She has managed to pass her first year of college without anyone telling her to do her homework or study for her tests, but she probably still wants someone to cook her dinner and remind her to get the oil changed in her car. You can figure this out—together. Keep the lines of communication open and work with your college student to find the new normal in your evolving relationship. The years to come are sure to bring many changes to your relationship; set good patterns now and you will make it through your child’s upcoming transitions.
Taking some time to understand the environment your college student lived in will help you to smooth the transition back to life at home. They are not yet ready to be completely on their own, but they have survived a year away from your care. Helping them to find their footing in this new life stage can make for a great summer for everyone in the family.