Surviving Summer at home with the parents.

There’s not many better feelings than the one of turning in that last paper, the ending of that last class and the pulling out of your dorm to head home for the summer.

For now, the stress and responsibility has diminished and it’s time to go home and not look at a book all summer.

However, for many (if not all) college students, there is a new sort of pressure that is encountered once you’ve returned home and the honeymoon phase of exhaustion has faded.

You’ve just managed to go a whole year (or more) taking care of yourself, not having a curfew, staying up all night if you wanted, and now you’re back in the house you grew up in interacting with parents who aren’t used to the you that embraces this new found freedom.

There is bound to be conflict. It’s a tale as old as time and totally natural.

Not only is it weird and somewhat frustrating for you to be back home and have your parents enforce chores, family outings, alarms, curfews, etc., but it’s weird for them too. To them you’re still their little girl or boy, their baby and well, their dependent.

The best way to avoid the inevitable conflict and frustration is to prepare and communicate.

Here are some tips for college students (and parents) for making it through the summer back home:

1) Talk about the first week or so being home. Will there be lots of family stopping by? Will you want to go see all your old friends right away?  Talk about when and where you’ll want to start reconnecting with loved ones.

2) You’re exhausted. Wanting to stay in the bed you’ve missed so much is normal. You may emerge for a snack and then return to the cave. It’s understandable. It’s easy to get into a routine of sleeping until 2pm and staying up until 4am. Although after a bit, begin to think about ways to slowly get yourself out earlier and going to bed earlier. It’ll only help your routine and your family’s.

3) You may trash your dorm room at school, and unpacking is a huge hassle (especially if you’re just moving back in a couple months) but taking care of your surroundings is only going to make living easier and healthier and shows respect to your folks.

4) No matter how much you’ve grown in confidence, strength and independence during your time away, we inevitably slip right back into a “childlike” role when we enter back into our house. And parents slip back from “parent of a college student who’s away” to “parent of my baby.” No matter how much our sense tells us we’ve grown and changed we slip right back to where we were. This leads to lots of mental warfare as we fight against the way we think it ought to be and the way it naturally has become. We don’t even realize it happened!

5) If you go home and start demanding respect and expect no-questions asked freedom (like you get when you’re away) it’s only going to frustrate your parents. And if parents immediately enforce 10pm curfews, 8am wake up calls and the chores you had in high school, it’s only going to frustrate you. There HAS to be a conversation where some sort of civil, compromising, respectful negotiation occurs.

Students, you’re still in your parents home, rules for co-existing with family (and the one who pays your bills and does your laundry) are just facts. Parents, your child has had more independence and can handle later curfews and more freedom.

6) If you’re trying to get in good with the folks, consider embracing new responsible roles around the household. You have independence, now do something thoughtful with it. See you’re out of milk? Go get some. Mom need help with the spaghetti? Offer it. Sister needs picking up from soccer? Offer to go. Mom did your laundry? Say thank you and put it away. Parents need appreciation and showing it will not only add to a more harmonious home but show them that you’ve matured.

7) Consider getting a summer job, internship, volunteering activity. Not only will it look good on a resume, but it will help create structure in your day, help meet new people and help your parents see, again, your maturity.

Bottom line is it’s still your parents’ home and you’re living in it. You may not be the same kid you were before college but it’s still a situation that requires mutual respect, consideration and compromise. Students, realize that your parents don’t WANT to simply treat you like a child and hold you back. They’ve spent 18 years doing that, they want you to have the independence you’re gaining. But so many students get back home and go back to acting like a middle schooler but still demand independence. I say, if you act like a child, your parents have the right to treat you like one. If you come home and act like a young adult who really has learned how to be responsibly independent then you deserve the freedom that’s appropriate for your age.

Parents: Remember, your son or daughter has managed to survive, possibly even thrive while away, they deserve some respect and freedom.

Students: Remember, your parents still have a thing or two to teach you and deserve consideration and respect for what they do.

You will survive. Enjoy!