Another school year is drawing to a close and many of us have welcomed our sons and daughters home from college.
Whether they’re just staying home for the summer or moving back in after graduation, everyone in the household has to make adjustments. Previously established family routines may require some adjustments or even a complete overhaul.
Your teenager may be living under your roof again, but you need to treat them like the young adult they are, not the kid they were.
The line between the end of parental authority and the start of your teen’s autonomy has shifted, creating tension as your household tries to live together again.
So how are you supposed to reengage with your teen with a healthy dose of parental authority while respecting their evolving independence?
You can relieve some of that tension by doing a number of tried and trueand-true approaches.
Here’s how to help your college child’s school-to-home transition and keep the peace in your home
1. Consider your needs – and those of your child
Think about how your college-age son or daughter feels when they return home after a while. They have become accustomed to a certain degree of independence and self-management during their studies and do not want to feel “ordered” by their parents.
You can also focus on any number of new experiences – romantic relationships, changing friendships, summer jobs, or planning for the future. Your child may also be exhausted and needs some time to unwind and relax. The last thing they want to hear is a lecture, criticism, or unsolicited advice.
On the other hand, as parents, we still see that our college-age children need our attention, guidance, and motivation.
We want our kids to have a productive summer and get involved around the house. And with more of us working from home these days, it’s all too easy to get frustrated when our teen hangs around the house all day, stays out late, or makes decisions we don’t agree with.
As you both experience increased stress from these changes, it’s natural to feel disappointed, confused, angry, or worried. They live under one roof, only with new burdens and growing pains.
2. Create a healthy daily summertime routine
A healthy summer routine grounds us and helps us use our time more efficiently. Use this opportunity to brainstorm ideas on how to create structure while building and enforcing healthy family boundaries.
Of course, your child wants to sleep in and have some rest. But they need to understand that taking care of daily chores like dishes and exercise is part of the summer schedule. Establish regular meal times, but still allow some flexibility so your teens can socialize.
Discuss what is going on and consciously avoid old communication patterns and family dynamics. Our independent young adults want to be treated more as equals.
Listen, reflect on what you have heard and formulate your opinion neutrally with “I notice” or “I think” statements. Everyone has certainly grown and changed since the last time you were all under one roof. You want to find ways to help them find a daily summer routine that accomplishes the things they need to do and want to do.
You don’t tell them what to do, you offer to help. If they don’t follow through, it’s okay to express your frustration, but don’t tell them why they should. That’s not part of the cooperative spirit.
3. Address the basics
Help your child divide the day into sections (morning/afternoon/evening) and list whatever they want to have Tasks such as self-sufficiency, work/classes, housework, etc.
Then list anything they want to do, like swim, hang out with friends, or play games. This is especially important if your teenager doesn’t have a summer job that automatically provides structure for the day.
Model how to write your own schedule instead of helping them create their own. Start simple and add things over time.
4. Avoid micromanagement
Don’t nag. Instead, use supports to support you.
Realize what your teen is responsible for each day, and then step back. Let them figure out how to live up to that responsibility. You can set phone alarms, create to-do lists, or ask a smart home device for reminders.
Set up a family Google Calendar or dust off the white board in the kitchen and get organized the old fashioned way. These things always work better when you model them rather than insisting on them, so get organized too.
5. Redefine responsibilities
Don’t assume that just because your child comes home from college, they will take on old responsibilities.
Set up a family reunion to split up chores so dishes don’t mount while you’re on conference calls. Discuss responsibilities and the common good for your family unit.
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As a young adult, your son or daughter can plan and cook meals, take their younger siblings, or walk the dog.
College-age adults will create a schedule that they feel will work best for them. You can sleep until 10am every morning and work until 7am every night while waking up at 6:30am and working until 4pm
You are in control of your own time in college and you need to trust your process. It helps to know their general daily schedule, but you don’t want to be the person who knocks on their door to wake them up every morning.
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7. Exercise daily
Like you, your son or daughter will be at their healthiest and happiest if they exercise in some way every day. This could be walking the dog, doing an online training video, yoga, etc.
If they’re not doing this alone, invite them to join you. Going on a bike ride together or making a Pilates video on YouTube might be an unexpected way of bonding.
8. Be available and show empathy
Although you may be juggling your child home from college more than you used to, take opportunities to talk. Avoid using mealtime to discuss studies or life plans, and instead create regular check-in times for these topics.
Make it easy and convenient for your teen to come to you for advice on school, work, relationships or anything else. Be a good listener and only give advice when asked.
Make summertime relaxing and joyful for you and your teen or aspiring adult by setting expectations and structures that work for your family.
Model how to act responsibly and healthily by balancing work and free time. Before you know it, you’ll have your kid back in college. So set the course now for a pleasant summer and enjoy this precious time together.
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dr Sharon Saline, Psy.D., is an international educator and workshop facilitator and has focused her work for over 30 years on ADHD, anxiety, learning differences, and mental health issues and their impact on school and family dynamics. Visit their website for more information.
This article was originally published on the author’s website. Reprinted with permission of the author.