How to Welcome Home Your College Student (and still like each other by August)
Communication Is Key
Preparing to welcome home a college student for summer break may seem easy, but problems can arise if parents don’t consider some key elements.
College students can show a significant change in attitude, routine, and appearance within the 10 months they are attending classes, so it will no doubt take some time to readjust to this new, independent person.
Keep Communication Lines Open
One of the first steps a parent should take is to open communication with the student a few weeks before he or she comes home, said Kate H. Elliott, a communications specialist with Valdosta State University, in her article titled “Surviving the summer months: Tips to ensure your student’s successful transition home.”
Elliott wrote: “Ask them to give you a heads up about any tattoos, piercings, or colorful hair. Share any changes with them, such as whether you converted their bedroom into a workout nook or the household has gone vegan. Being upfront and honest early on will ease the transition and help both of you adjust to any new circumstances.”
Leave Time to Adjust
The next step would be to allow time for both the family and the student to adjust.
“Students really do need some decompression time and tend to like to kick back a little after the frenzy of finals, and hopefully parents understand that,” said Lis Bischoff-Ormsbee, director of the Parents Program at Union College in Schenectady, in an article titled “Students home for summer can mean conflicts” by Joanne E. McFadden.
According to the College Parents of America, parents must remember the student has changed, and so has the family dynamic. In an article published by the CPA titled “Welcoming your college student home for visits—what to expect,” family members have become accustomed to having the student gone. It could be as simple as having less distractions and interruptions to as difficult as siblings readjusting his or her place within a family.
So how does a parent handle this situation? According to the Southern Methodist University Memorial Health Center, do not greet the student with a list of rules, demands, and criticism. Instead, allow the student to have the time to acclimate. By doing this, students are more likely to be respectful toward parents.
SMU also warns parents not to baby their student once he or she returns home. In SMU’s handout titled “When college students come home,” it is suggested to parents to avoid cleaning up after their student.
“If you clean up after them they will come to expect it,” the handout states. “True, they may need a day or two to unwind and catch up on sleep, but they are more mature now so let them show off.”
Finding a Win-Win Solution
Another topic that could easily cause contention is over privacy and freedom. The student has spent the last 10 months as an independent individual with no curfew or rules other than his or her own. One easy fix is to discuss a compromise with the student.
Elliot said: “Many parents have found that compromise is essential to a healthy balance and respect and rules. Share with your child the comfort it provides you to have them tucked in bed at a certain hour, and convey the importance of the household being on a relatively similar sleeping and eating schedule. Similarly, listen to your student’s reasons for wanting to stay out late.”
By allowing students to keep some freedoms he or she has had will lessen contention and leave room for an adult discussion over other topics.