Just a few months ago, your sweet baby packed up her things and headed off to the great big world of college. Now that summer is here, she's likely on her way back home, but she's probably not the same kid she was when she left. Like it or not, your college student has had her first taste of independence. Likewise, you may have finally started to enjoy the freedoms of life with an empty nest. It's no wonder then that this transition may be a tricky one. Here's how you can both survive when your college kid comes home for the summer.
Remember that you're all adults
In your eyes, your college student probably still looks the same as the day you dropped her off for kindergarten, but she has grown up quite a bit since then. If you're going to have a happy, healthy relationship with your college-aged kid, you need to stop treating her like a baby. And she needs to stop acting like one, too. That means that you need to stop doing her laundry and she needs to stop treating you like a short-order cook.
Kelly Zitzer, a mom of three boys from Virginia, is already anticipating this challenge when her eldest heads off to college next fall. But she sees her son's last year at home as a time to try out this transition by laying out her expectations early. "You live here. We work. You respect us by not coming home late. You tell us in advance before having people over. You monitor your friends (many of whom are college aged) in our home and make sure they respect our home and your brothers' space."
Make some ground rules, together
Don't wait for issues to arise and tensions to flare to talk about your expectations for the summer. You might expect your kid to jump back into her old high school routine of doing the dishes, taking out the garbage and getting home before midnight, but it's likely that she expects to sleep until noon and then go hang out with friends until dawn.
"It is good to start the discussion before they move home for Christmas or summer," said Amy Gubler, a mom of one college student and one high schooler from Virginia. "Both sides need to adjust. It is no longer life in high school, but I am not running a college dorm," she added.
Make a list of anything that you think might cause a problem and ask your child to do the same. Talk about the big stuff such as meals, money, use of the car, behavioral expectations and chores as well as smaller things such as her tendency to listen to music late at night or take the last cold drink out of the fridge without replacing it. It's OK to set firm ground rules on some things as long as you're also willing to compromise on others.
Ask for respect, and show some in return
For the past several months, your child has been able to come and go as she pleases, so it make sense that she may not want to check in every time she leaves the house. However, it's perfectly reasonable to ask her to show some common courtesy by texting if she won't be home for dinner or letting you know if she'll be out late with friends. Attempting to reinstate the old high school curfew is probably a bad idea because again, your child has been out on her own for months or even years by now. But you can ask that if she comes in late, she keeps the noise to a minimum so that your sleep isn't disturbed.
Yes, your daughter is different than she was just a few months ago. She may dress differently, have a new group of friends, and bring up contentious topics at the dinner table. But she's still your daughter and this is just another stage of her growth and development. Now is the time to lay the groundwork for an adult relationship with your child, so don't be afraid to discuss those topics and really listen to what she has to say. Most importantly, be flexible with your new arrangement and as Kathy Bimber, a mom of two adult kids from Pennsylvania puts it, "Hold your breath and count to 10 and good luck!"