Returning Home from College: Tips for Parents and Students
Late spring is a time of change for college students and their parents. As the semester ends and students leave campus life behind to return home for the summer, families often face a period of adjustment.
Before their student left for school last fall, parents had a good sense of their child’s daily schedules, chores, and curfew. But students living at college quickly grow accustomed to having the freedom to come and go as they please, stay out late, and let few, if any, people know what their plans are. When students return home, there is often a mismatch in expectations and habits, which can cause stress for everyone.
Easing family stress
What happens to one person in a family often affects everyone, and a college student’s return home for the summer is no exception. Talking is crucial. The more families talk about expectations, plans, and needs, the easier things are for all involved.
Here are seven areas for families to focus on to help ease the transition from living at college to moving back home.
Talk about financial expectations for summer. Do parents need students to work to contribute to the cost of books or tuition? If there is a work expectation, it can be helpful to talk about the expenses and be clear about how much the student is expected to earn and contribute.
Discuss expectations for chores either before or very soon after your student returns home. It is reasonable to expect all family members to pitch in and help. When families clearly define what is expected and who will be responsible for those chores, the more harmonious your household will be. College students may want to have a choice regarding which chores they do. Some families find it helpful to have a list and allow students to choose how they want to contribute.
It’s hard for a college student who kept odd hours to return to a family schedule. Those loud and late nights in the dorm are no more, but your student is ready to make a batch of cookies at midnight when the rest of the family is sleeping. That’s why it’s important to have a conversation about sleep-wake schedules.
When students first return home, they often need a few days to decompress and sleep in, often extremely late. After this, it can be helpful to have a mutually agreeable schedule for the family. Be respectful of each other’s needs and how best to accommodate everyone. The parent who must get up for work cannot be tiptoeing around because their college student is still sleeping. Having clear expectations and a schedule is key to keeping stress out of the situation and surviving the cohabitation.
If car-sharing is required, how will negotiation for the car happen? Who gets priority for the use of the car? Perhaps you use a central calendar on which family members request use of a car? Do you have a back-up plan if the car is unavailable? Again, conversation is key -- the more family members know about each other’s needs and expectations, the better they typically feel. Of course, with ride shares readily available, this has become less of a stickler for families readjusting to their student being home.
Rather than setting or maintaining a curfew that worked when students were in high school, talk about reasonable expectations. If it is too disruptive to the household to have a student returning in the wee hours of the morning seven nights a week, discuss how many nights per week is okay for that late night out. Also, families find it helpful to have a plan in place for when expectations cannot be met. If your student’s return is later than expected, they should know who to call or text, so parents won’t have to worry.
Students want to spend time with friends during the summer and often have busy social schedules. Forget trying to keep track of a complicated and frequently changing schedule. Instead, designate a few family times each week. This helps everyone make plans while also ensuring that the family gets some time together to catch up and enjoy each other’s company.
Some families find it helpful to hold a brief family meeting once a week to talk about plans for the week, what is coming up, and how things are going. If chores need to be changed or a family member needs the car for something, this is a good time to discuss it.
Remember, this transition can be a difficult time. But a little planning and some conversation can make it a breeze.
If your family is experiencing issues, we can help. Learn more about our Family Therapy Program.
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