The thought of your student returning home, especially after freshman year, can be exciting and potentially unsettling. Your student will now be a young adult living in your home. What will the new relationship look like? Read on for observations and suggestions for navigating the transition.
Some understandings from before college may need to be revisited. Can your student come and go at any time? What new privileges and responsibilities will he or she have? And how will new understandings affect any younger siblings?
Communication is key, and sometimes subtlety won’t have the desired effect. Laying out your wishes and expectations, and being open to talking about them, can only help.
Michigan mom and UHS Physical Therapist Roseann Dishman notes:
Every year your kid changes as they grow up, and these changes [gained in college] are all emotional, psychological and social gains. They’re not so immediately obvious, and sometimes you’re surprised and you have to remind yourself of all the changes that they’ve gone through…. You have to let go... there’s a new reality…
Returning students may need time to readjust, as they leave behind their new life in Ann Arbor. "As hard as college is, it’s also really fun,” said student Caci Dishman, U-M sophomore and pre-med Biophysics major, reflecting on the intense friendships, sense of purpose and independence that college offers.
The Dishman family uses a communication system based on the green, yellow, and red of a traffic signal. According to daughter Caci:
My mom wanted to be very helpful and give a lot of support, which was good, but sometimes that support became almost invasive… So we made a no-hard-feelings system, where green light means go ahead, this is fine, help me. Red light means stop, no, you can't, and yellow light was in between, as in 'slow down, you're getting too intense!’
Roseann and Caci feel like this system helps them to be honest with each other, to reduce mom's worry and daughter's stress during communication and even disagreements. Finally, Caci reminds students to put themselves in a parent's shoes:
I think it's just as important for the student to be considerate of the parent. Some students are like, 'my parents are so annoying'. It's good to be mutually respectful and think about the other person's feelings.
See also Student Perspective: The Journey Home.
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-- Originally published Spring 2013 --