Boomerang kids. What to do when the kids come home for the summer?
First piece of advice is for everyone; parents and students, to be mindful of the transition. Parents can’t revert to treating their college students the way they did in high school and college students need to remember that they aren’t living in a dorm or frat house any longer.
The biggest gripe on both sides seems to be a pronounced, unwelcome lack of privacy. Many parents feel the need to know what their children are doing and where they’re headed while they’re living under their roof. Their kids are confused because they haven’t had to report in for the last nine months. While their kids are at college, most parents operate under the guise of “what I don’t know, won’t hurt me” and intentionally choose not to ask too many questions about their social life at college. But now they’re home and their life is almost in full view and it’s impossible not to ask.
Parents, especially empty-nesters, can become resentful of the changes and accommodations that need to be made by having their child/children re-enter their physical space.
Some of the major challenges faced by parents:
- Not asking too many questions. This is especially true if the children are approaching their junior or senior year in college. Parents want to make sure there is a return on their college investment and are often anxious about their children landing a job or making plans for graduate school. Students often feel that these conversations turn into interrogations and everyone leaves unhappy.
- Negotiating responsibilities. Some students act as if they are guests at an all-inclusive hotel with transportation included. They don’t feel the need to do chores, or even help out around the house.
- Establishing appropriate boundaries. Life is different now and parents often feel that they are walking on egg-shells. One minute their son/daughter is an independent soon-to-be college graduate and the next they’ve regressed into childish passive-aggressive behavior.
Here’s a suggestion for how to handle these challenges: These tensions can escalate quickly and build resentment. Don’t let negative feelings percolate. The best bet is to set the tone from the get-go, make your expectations known and discuss any issues openly.
What’s the upside of this “boomerang” summer? Once the dust settles and you’ve had “the talk”, you’ll enjoy spending time with your young adult children. Don’t be surprised if you’re impressed by their maturity, their curiosity and the way they have grown and changed. Getting to know your children as “almost-adults” is wonderfully rewarding and can be a lot of fun. Many parents have shared that they enjoy the company of their grown children in a way they never anticipated.
And guess what? You’ll have to go through the whole “letting go” process again in just a few months when they return to college.
Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com