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Navigating Your College Student's First Summer Break

By: Members of Family Council

As parents, family members, or supporters, no sooner did we start to get used to our students being away, we’re now facing the reality that they’ll be home for the summer in a few weeks. As excited as we are to spend time together, plan their favorite meals, have a family game night, and maybe even explore something or someplace new together, the chaos that will accompany our students (along with their overflowing laundry baskets) may not be as easy as we think. 

Our students have changed while they’ve been away. Finding a new balance requires work on all sides, but the process can be made a little easier when some ground rules are set and when everyone recognizes that this is a new and unfamiliar phase of the parent-child relationship.  

Here are a few tips our Family Council parents have offered to help ease the transition of living with your college student this summer:

This House Does Not Have A Dining Hall—When surveyed, one of the most common frustrations for parents was around food and mealtimes. One parent remembers, “When our son came home, the refrain was always “Isn’t there anything to eat in this house!?” What that really meant was where is the food which, like cafeteria food, is already prepared and ready to eat with no effort required. It didn’t matter how thoughtfully I shopped in preparation for his return; it was never going to be just right. Given time, though, I do believe that most kids adjust to the idea that the dining hall only exists at school, and “normal” food may require a bit of rummaging in the fridge and preparing what you want.”  

Another parent suggests, “Make sure they tell you when they won’t be home for dinner. There is nothing worse than cooking for someone who doesn’t show up. This makes for a very cranky parent!” 

Navigate the Curfew—Although your student has been doing whatever they want, whenever they want, for the past semester, setting a curfew will most likely put you at odds with each other. One of our parents explains, “I insist that my children tell us where they’re going and when they expect they’ll be home. I explain that if something happens, I want to know where to look for the body (for some reason they find this amusing). I also don’t want to be worried if they don’t come home at a reasonable hour.” 

Expect the Mess, But Don’t Let Them Act Like a Guest in Their Own Home—It’s not unreasonable to ask your student to pitch in around the house, but when you see the messy room, one of the best ways to alleviate a conflict is to simply close the door. Nagging them will most likely cause stress, and at the end of the day their rooms will still be a mess anyway. As long as they are respectful of the shared areas in your home—kitchen, bathroom, family room, etc.—we suggest that where they sleep should be a boundary for parents (if for no other reason than to protect your sanity!). 

Remember, even if your family dynamic changes when your student comes home for the summer, respect is a two-way street and setting some ground rules may help everyone enjoy the time together.