April 28, 2011
Surviving the Summer Months: Tips to Ensure Your Student’sSuccessful Transition Home
VALDOSTA -- As the end of the school year approaches, your empty
nest may soon find itself strewn with dirty laundry, smelling of
pizza rolls and observing late hours. If you survived Christmas and
Spring breaks without a curfew scuffle or dishwasher debate, don’t
rest on your laurels. Those brief holidays are fleeting compared to
the dog days of unstructured summer months.
The College Parents Association of America offers a few tips for parents to prepare for the adjustment of welcoming their student back home for the summer break. Lynn Franklin, president of the VSU Parents and Families Association, also weighs in with suggestions to help your entire family adjust to new boundaries and expectations.
“If your son or daughter have kept their grades up, not landed in jail, and you have not had a late night phone call from a police station, they did a great job and deserve your trust,” Franklin said. “Problem is you are probably like me and you can’t sleep until all the chickens have come home to roost.”
As with many situations and relationships in life, open communication is key to success. The association encourages parents to speak with their students in the weeks before the end of the semester to share any changes you or your child can expect upon returning home. 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.
“One solution that was given to me was to ask them their plans and a time line,” Franklin said. “Nine out of ten times, we have agreed together on a method that satisfies all of us. The hard thing is finding that fine line between your “baby” back in your nest and the young adult that emerged this past year.”
Talk with your student before he or she returns home to determine their overall plans for the break -- everything from any trips planned or doctor/dental appointments that need scheduling. If you want the family to go on a vacation, discuss it with you child to avoid any conflicts with their schedule. If he or she wants to acquire a job, possibly consider keeping an eye out for internships or well-paying summer positions.
I have to be home when?
Curfews are among the most contentious issues students and parents face during the summer holiday. Parents often revert back to previously observed restrictions the student was required to follow in high school. However, with a year of relatively unrestricted freedom under their belts, students are hesitant to give up newfound independence. When it comes to curfew, many parents have found that compromise it essential to a healthy balance of 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. Often, parents set a flexible curfew that can be adjusted depending on the activity. For instance, curfew might be later if parents know their student is watching movies at an old friend’s house rather than joyriding around town.
“A family we know has an alarm clock in the hall set for the time they agreed upon for their child to be home. When they return, their child is required to turn off the alarm. If no alarm went off, the parents sleep well. Should it go off, they give a quick text (not a phone call -- how embarrassing). More than likely they are around the corner or just lost track of time,” Franklin said. “For our family, it is simply turning off the porch light (which is seen from our bedroom) was a great way for me to notice it was out and they were home safely. The late nights will be more frequent when they first come home and naturally drift off as they settle into the routine of summer jobs and the newness of seeing friends wears off.”
Don’t hesitate to ask about the specifics of your students’ nighttime activities, and require them to keep their cell phone on so that you can reach them in case of an emergency. However, parents need to make sure not to abuse those lines of communication. Students will not tolerate calls to check in every hour.
Your student is not a visitor to be waited on hand and foot, but the transition back into chore charts and making beds might take some adjustment for your student who has likely lived a slightly less well-kept lifestyle since moving into the dorms or an apartment. Don’t assume they will remember past household responsibilities or be excited about taking on dish duty and carting around younger siblings. Outline clear expectations as well as consequences for not contributing to the family to-do list. If they need a chart, make a chart or some other type of checklist so you don’t feel like a nag and they are well aware of the responsibilities.
“As parents, we love to help our children out because we are glad to have them home. But they learned to live on your own this year, which means they can help out at home and show off what they have learned. Get them to try some new meals they can cook in the dorm for next year. This is a great time for them to practice new cooking skills for next year and keep up with their newly learned laundry skills.”
Many students consider summer employment during the break. Talk with them about job/internship options and responsible money saving strategies so that they can build a savings for spending money or books during the school year. It is also important to discuss the importance of balance. Although making some extra cash during the summer is a conscientious use of time, students should not overload themselves. Down time is essential for a healthy, growing college student. They have the rest of their lives to be chained to a desk or serving others in some way. Encourage them to work, but not so much that they have to forego poolside chats with friends and movie nights with the family.
The summer months can be a cherished time for reconnecting as a family. Communicate early and often with your student to ensure their successful transition back into your life. You might be surprised at how much they have grown in a year if you address them as adults and ask their input when establishing ground rules on which the entire family can agree.
“Yes, Virginia” they can come home again and everyone can enjoy the new young adult that has emerged from their college experience,” Franklin said. “If home is a safe nest that accepts the new reliable adult they are becoming you will foster a home for them to continue to want to come home long after graduation.”
Source: http://collegetipsforparents.org, www.collegeparents.org.