Parents Guide to College: When Your Kids Return Home

Part of the Student Advisor’s Tips for College Parents: How to avoid stress when your college kids return home for the winter  break

Welcome home college students.  We’ve got some tips for parents to help keep this happy time happy for everyone.
welcome mat

  • Be realistic with the rules – Your child has likely lived without rules about curfews, phone usage, Internet and TV restrictions (and more) for the last few months. Thinking of suggesting the same rules that applied when they were in high school? Expect that to go over like a lead balloon. Instead, have a discussion with your child when they first return home (before they head out to see their friends) and be prepared to compromise.  Do your best to let go of parenting patterns that don’t work with a fellow adult. If you tell your child what to do, nag him about his appearance, or do his household jobs for him, you are setting him up to fall back into a child-like role and childish behavior


  • Carve out some time – Your child is more than likely looking forward to connecting with their hometown friends as much (if not more) than they are looking forward to seeing you while on break. The best way to ensure that you get some quality time with your son/daughter? Make a “date”! Plan in advance to take them out for coffee, out to dinner – even to the mall to return the gifts they didn’t love. By planning in advance, you’re showing your kid that spending time with them is a high priority – and it will remind them to make it a priority for themselves, too.


  • Let’s all let loose – Think back to your first year in college, and how “adult” you felt. Know that your child is feeling the same way! You’re both entering the next phase in your relationship – when you can start to relate as adults. Now is a great time to let loose… a little bit. Share some stories about yourself at that age (edit where necessary), don’t freak out when they talk about being out till 3 am  – now that your kid is out of the house and grown, you can be a bit “cooler.” All within reason, of course! (No need to be Dina Lohan).


  • Prime for a refresher – While being “cool” has its advantages, you are still (of course) first and foremost a parent. The things that worry you most – are they eating well? Getting enough sleep? Keeping  out of trouble? – are going to keep worrying you, no matter how old your child gets.  Your son/daughter will be more relaxed on break than they have been all semester, so now is a great time to do a little digging. Talk about your recent health kick and the healthy things you’ve been eating, how you read that getting less than 8 hours of sleep can be bad for your health, etc. By making the focus on YOU, you’re leading by example and can draw your child into talking about the things that concern you without seeming like “a nag.”


  • Be gentle with your spouse. Having grown children at home can increase the frequency of arguments among married couples, especially over finances and chores — the very issues that you may not be discussing openly with your kid. With everything else you have on your plate this holiday season, no one needs the extra stress or hassle of fighting with their kids. Take time to step back and admire the wonderful child you’ve raised!

For more tips for parents of college students please read our digital guide Parents Survival Guide to college.

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