By Sandy Cox, MS Director, Counseling Center
Many things have changed since the beginning of the academic year. Students have become more self-reliant; parents have developed their own interests or are focusing more of their attention on younger siblings; and in some homes, the student’s room may have become an office or a sibling’s bedroom. As a result, weekend and holiday visits back home often provide challenges for both students and parents. Fortunately, you can take a number of steps to make sure this time at home is enjoyable for all.
Follow the blue text to the appropriate list, keep an open mind, and see if these tips can help the upcoming break be a successful one.
For Parent’s Eyes Only:
- Let your student know you under stand things are different than when they were in high school and that you are willing to consider some new house rules. Share your thoughts regarding the rules that need to remain the same and those that are up for negotiation.
- It’s not unusual for students to want to spend considerable time seeing old friends from high school and new friends from college who may live nearby. Parents, having eagerly awaited their student’s return, may be disappointed and hurt by such behavior. Be flexible and work with your student to schedule family times when you can all be together.
- Express interest in your student’s life at school but avoid an interrogation. Pressuring students for information is like trying to swim out of quicksand. It seems like a good idea, but the outcome may be contrary to the intended goal - which is to sustain a healthy relationship with your son or daughter.
- Learn from the past. Review the successes and mistakes of previous visits, and try to do more of the former. Additionally, it may be beneficial to search the recesses of your memory and recall what it was like when you, as a young adult, were establishing your own independence and identity. What did your parents do or say that was helpful or hurtful?
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. Concentrate on the bigger picture of acquainting yourself with your student’s new experiences and enjoying your time together.
- Students who have struggled with the adjustment to college life may have a rough time returning to school. Be prepared for some tears, listen patiently to concerns, and help them to develop strategies to use when they are feeling home sick.
- Don’t read the student’s section of this column, point out the things your student is doing wrong, or blame him/her for any problems that occur. Focus on the “For Parent’s Eyes Only” side and on what you can do to make it the best visit possible.
For Student’s Eyes Only:
- Remember that you’re not the only one learning and growing. Parents don’t magically know how to relate to their grown children as adults. They are facing the significant challenge of letting go of concerns, points of view, and behaviors that have been a part of them for years.
- Talk with your parents about your plans for the visit home as soon as you arrive. Be flexible and include family time in these plans. That way, your parents will feel a part of your life and be less likely to attempt to plan your schedule for you. If you come from a divorced/blended family, work to develop strategies to reduce the pressures to be in two or more places at the same time.
- Be reasonable. Do not expect to have the same level of freedom that you enjoy at school in your parents’ house. Cooperate with them to develop new house rules (e.g., curfew) that reflect both their parental concerns and your new independence.
- Avoid the trap of falling back into your childhood roles. If you want your parents to see you as an adult, do your part by acting like one. Responsible adults pitch in around the house without being asked, are consider ate of others and live up to their promises and commitments.
- Beat your parents to the punch by talking with them about your life at school (e.g., how you achieved your successes, how you handled challenges, etc.). What you might see as them being “nosey,” they see as being interested and involved in your life. If you feel too much time is being spent discussing college issues, negotiate times when school matters are off-limits.
- Do not read the parent’s section of this column, point out the things your parents are doing wrong, or blame them for problems that occur. Focus on the “For Student’s Eyes Only” side and on what you can do to make it the best visit possible.