Over the next month or so, college students will be returning home to spend the summer with you. Within a few days, several of your conversations will begin with any or all of the following questions:
Where have you been? It's 2:00am.
When did I say you didn't have to call?
Why would you take the car without asking?
What do you mean you don't have a job?
Who said I'd do your laundry?
Who is that sleeping on my couch?
Why are there empty beer bottles in the back of the garage?
It's 2:00 pm, are you ever going to get out of bed?
If this will be the first time you have a college student returning home for the summer, let me be the first to say, "I'm so sorry. This is going to be a hellish time for you." If you have been down this road before as I have, each time teaches us something new as each kid in his unique way provides us with new reasons to shake our heads, shrug our shoulders, and throw up our hands in astonishment.
My 19-year-old son will arrive home soon and...
I CAN'T WAIT!!
I admit I have really missed him. Maybe it's because his brother had already moved out and his sister was away at college herself, leaving him for the four years of high school as the only kid home. Maybe it's because he's the baby, and because with his departure, my life as a stay-at-home mom came to a rather abrupt end. Whatever the reason, I've been looking forward to resuming our roles and returning him to his rightful spot in his own bed safe at home. Sounds blissful, right?
Maybe, not so much. I've done this twice already with his older sister and brother and that knowledge compels me to tell you that a lot, I mean A LOT, has changed since little Jane or little Johnny left home.
Here are a few tips for making this summer a bit more enjoyable and survivable for all:
1. Establish Expectations Early: Right from the beginning, it's important to have a conversation about the fact that your student is back in your home and not on a campus. Go over your expectations in detail and make sure they understand them and the consequences for not meeting them.
2. Listen To Them: Once you've gone over your expectations, there will be some push back. They wouldn't be young adults worth their salt if they didn't try to get more. Take the time to listen to what they have to say about the way they expect the summer to go. They need to feel as though they've been heard, and compromise goes a long way to a peaceful coexistence.
3. Recognize The Change In Them: Keep in mind that the high school kid that you dropped off ten months ago is NOT the person attached to your couch now. Although they make it impossible to see sometimes, they have grown, changed and experienced a lot in these past few months.
4. Reward Their Accomplishment: Let's face it, if your kid is coming home for the summer and has been invited to go back in the fall, it's a victory all around. It seems he's managed life on his own fairly well. He's made decisions without you, gotten out of bed without you, fed himself, clothed himself, and even managed to do his homework without you. He's capable of more than you think and he's proven that. Reward his maturity and allow for more freedom in his life. You haven't known where he's been and what he's been doing every second of every day for the better part of the year, or, at least I hope you haven't, so it's reasonable to be open to a new way of dealing with each other and to relax some of the old rules.
5. Change The Way You Talk To Them: In my experience, the more honest I have been about my feelings, the more responsive my kids have been to my requests. If I explain to them, adult to adult, how their failing to tell me where they are, leaves me up all night distraught, or that their blatant disrespect for house rules makes me feel as though they are, in fact, disrespecting me, I get much farther than if I just start screaming. Think about it" If this was not your kid and another adult instead, how would you go about getting what you want?
6. Don't Mourn The Loss Of "What Used To Be:" You can't turn back time. The boy who went away to school is not the boy who will be pulling into the driveway in a few weeks with his life basically crammed into the back of his car. That boy went the way of the gorgeous infant, exhausting toddler, inquisitive grade schooler, gawky middle schooler, and maddening high schooler. I can't get those days back, but I can relish the new places our relationship can go. Embrace whom they are and what they have to say. Remember, you won't get this summer back either, so enjoy it!
When it all comes down to it, I CAN'T WAIT!! I'll be standing in that driveway when he pulls up with all of his filthy belongings stuffed into garbage bags, and empties them all out to sit in my front hall for weeks. I will have stocked the house with his favorite foods, changed his sheets and made his room look welcoming. I'll have cleared my schedule for a few days so that we can catch up, get him settled, and he can tell me story after story of all the fun things he experienced while away for his first year.
If I'm realistic, his arrival will go more like this, "Hey! Can I leave the dirty clothes in the laundry room and this other stuff just in the front hall for a few? I told the guys I'd meet them at Bob's to skateboard. We will go for pizza after so I don't need dinner. I won't be late; I'll leave a note or text you. Oh, yeah, I'm taking the car too. That ok?" I'll hug him, smile and say, "Sounds great. Have fun. Glad you are home safe."
As it should be, I guess...
So, good luck to all of you. Before you know it, they will be packing up again to leave and you can walk by their empty room and cry. But for now, buckle up, because...
How do you plan to handle the summer?
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