Family

8 Simple Ways To Make Your College Kid's Transition Home Easier — On Everyone

Photo: marian fil / shutterstock.com
mother and teenage son

As another school year is winding down, and many of us have welcomed our sons and daughters home from college.

Whether they’re home for just the summer or they are moving back in after graduating, everyone in the household will need to make adjustments. Previously established family routines may require some tweaks or even a full overhaul.

Your teen may be living under your roof again, but you need to treat them like the young adult they are, not the child they were.

The line between where parental authority ends and your teen’s autonomy begins has shifted, creating tension as your household is figuring out how to live together once again.

So how should you reengage with your teen with a healthy dose of parental authority while still respecting their developing independence? 

You can release some of this tension by applying a number of tried-and-true approaches. 

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How to help your college kid transition home from school & keep peace in your home

1. Consider your needs — and your child's

Consider what your college-age son or daughter is feeling when they return home after being away for a while. They have gotten used to a certain level of independence and self-management in college, and don’t want to feel “bossed around” by their parents.

They may also be focused on any number of new experiences — romantic relationships, shifting friendships, summer jobs or planning for the future. Your child may also be exhausted, needing to have some time to chill out and unwind. The last thing they want to hear is a lecture, criticism or unsolicited advice.

On the flip side, we, as parents, still see our college-age kids as needing our attention, guidance and motivation.

We want our children to have a productive summer and pitch in around the house. And with more of us working from home these days, it’s all too easy to get annoyed seeing our teen hanging around the house all day, staying out late or making choices with which we don’t agree.

As you both experience heightened stress from these changes, it’s natural to feel disappointed, confused, angry, or worried. You're living under the same roof, only with new stresses and growing pains. 

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2. Create a healthy daily summer routine

A healthy daily summer routine will ground us and help us manage our time more efficiently. Use this opportunity to brainstorm ways to create structure while establishing and following through on healthy family boundaries.

Of course your child will want to sleep in and have some down time. But they need to understand that taking care of daily responsibilities like dishes and exercise is part of the summer plan. Set regular meal times but still allow for some flexibility so your teens can socialize. 

Discuss what’s going on while consciously avoiding old communication patterns and family dynamics. Our independent, young adults insist on being treated more as equals.

Listen, reflect what you hear and state your opinions neutrally with ‘I notice’ or ‘I think’ statements. Everybody has surely grown and changed since the last time you were all under the same roof. You want to explore ways to help them figure out a daily summer routine that accomplishes the things they need to do and the things they want to do.

You’re not telling them what to do, you’re offering your assistance. If they don’t follow that, it’s fine to express your frustration but don’t tell them why they should. That’s not part of the collaborative spirit. 

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3. Address the basics

Help your child divide the day into chunks (morning/afternoon/evening) and to list everything they have to do, like self-care, work/classes, household chores, etc.

Then list everything they want to do, like swimming, hanging out with friends, or gaming. This is especially important if your teen doesn’t have a summer job which automatically provides daily structure.

Model writing out your own schedule instead of helping them do their own. Start simple and add things as time goes on. 

4. Avoid micromanaging

Don’t nag. Instead, use supports to assist you.

Be clear about what your teen is responsible for each day and then step back. Let them figure out how to meet those responsibilities. They 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-school way. These things always work better if you model them rather than insist upon them, so get yourself organized too.

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5. Re-establish responsibilities 

Don’t assume your kid will pick up old chores just because they’re home from college.

Set up a family meeting to split chores so that dishes don’t mount while you’re on conference calls. Talk about responsibilities and the common good for your family unit.

As a young adult, your son or daughter can plan and cook meals, give their younger sibling a ride or take the dog for a walk.

6. Sleep 

College-age adults are going to make a schedule that they feel works best for them. They may sleep until 10 every morning and work until 7 every night, while you get up at 6:30 a.m. and work until 4 p.m.

They’ve been in control of their own time at college and you need to trust their process. It’s helpful to know their general daily plan but you don’t want to be the person knocking on their door every morning to wake them up.

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7. Exercise daily

 Like you, your son or daughter will be healthiest and happiest if they’re exercising in some capacity every day. This could be going for a run with the dog, doing a workout video online, yoga, etc.

If they aren’t doing this on their own, invite them to join you in. Going for a bike ride together or doing a Pilates video on YouTube could be an unexpected way to bond. 

8. Be available and empathize

Though you’re juggling more than before with your child back home from college, take advantage of openings to talk. Avoid using meal time to discuss studies or life plans, instead, create regular check in times for those issues.

Make it easy and comfortable for your teen to come to you for advice on school, work, relationships or anything else. Be a good listener and only dole out advice when asked.

Make summertime relaxing and joyful for yourself and your teen or emerging adult by setting expectations and structures which work for your family.

Model how to be responsible and healthy by balancing work and downtime. Before you know it, you’ll be sending your child back to college.  So lay the groundwork for a pleasant summer now, and enjoy this precious time together.

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Dr. Sharon Saline, Psy.D., is an international lecturer and workshop facilitator and has focused her work on ADHD, anxiety, learning differences and mental health challenges and their impact on school and family dynamics for over 30 years. For more information, visit her website.

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This article was originally published at The author's website. Reprinted with permission from the author.