It’s been about a month since college dorms closed up for the summer and since schools, both highschool and college level, have let out for summer vacation. While the initial adjustments have been done to re-adding your children back into the home, and things are truly settling after a month, it’s about now that questions of how things have changed begin to bubble up along with some potentially awkward feelings of reconnection. If your child has come home from college, the person who’s home for the summer isn’t exactly the same person who went to college a few months ago. Nor are they the same individual that they were in highschool and trying to maintain the same relationship that you had with them in highschool isn’t a viable option because things have changed. They are more independent now, more accustomed to being treated as an adult by those around them, and more accustomed to making their own choices. These changes can be hard to adjust to, especially when you’re unsure of how to go about them.
Adapting to these changes doesn’t have to be difficult. Sometimes something as simple as rephrasing a request or comment can be all it takes to adapt. For example, when your child was a highschooler you might impose a curfew or a certain time for them to be home by. However, as a college student this curfew wasn’t enforced unless your child self-imposed their own curfew. Rather than approaching this topic as something they must follow, instead, perhaps approach it from a more request-like point. Asking what time they might be home by so that you could plan dinner, when to expect the front door to open, or so that you know when to turn on the security system can allow for their own sense of autonomy to be preserved while still allowing you to know what time your child will be home by.
Even if your children are still in highschool, or middle school, or pre-school it can be a big adjustment going from having them out for several hours of the day to being home all day. That stress can build up quickly, especially if you’re expecting your life to go on as it did when they were at school. Sometimes, our own expectations of our ability to adapt actually hinder our ability to adapt; when things change, even if it’s slight, there needs to be some adjustments made to account for those changes. Routines you had need some slightly restructuring to account for the new additions in the home and your expectations also need some recalibrating; expecting a clean home, for example, may need to be reexamined with the understanding that several children or teens are playing inside it all day or in the yard constantly.
A lot of adapting is just adjusting expectations, which can be disruptive to a previously set daily schedule and take a long time. It might even be frustrating for both parents and children involved as the growing pains of settling in show themselves — when that happens, it’s important to remember that this change is new for everyone involved. Patience, healthy and effective communication, and compromises are the name of the game. It’s especially important that as the home refills for the summer, everyone finds time to be alone and do what they enjoy, because as much as we love our family, sometimes we need time to ourselves.
By Jessica Seney, MHC intern