Did I mention that everyone is home? M. and B. came home from college last week and it's nice to have them back. I love having everyone under one roof. It's fun. It's loud. The littles love, love, love having their big brother and sister home, and G. and B. have such a relationship that we all wonder how either of them survives when B. is away at school.
The table and the house are very full and I love it.
I will give my older children credit, in that it is not always an easy transition to come home from being away at college, especially to a house full of younger children. (Yes, my children go back to school to get some peace and quiet. Not every college student can say that.) They are both incredibly gracious when it comes to interacting with their younger siblings who want their every attention every moment.
In that spirit, I know I'm not the only one who has returning college students for the summer. Here are some things that have worked for us in easing the transition between college and home.
1. Remember you child is different now than when he or she left for college the first time. (Yes, I give you permission to go into the bathroom and have a little cry about this. In fact, I may join you. In a different bathroom, of course.) Living on one's own and being responsible for one's schedule changes a person. And as any adult knows, once you have experienced that freedom, you don't really want to go back to a situation where someone else is in charge all the time. We parents need to treat our children as we would an adult who was staying in our home.
2. The returning student also needs to realize that they are different and that being home will feel different. This is not any more comfortable for the student than it is for the parent. I find it helps to just say it out loud. "Gee, it might be kind of difficult to come back home after having been away at college. I remember when I first came home it felt as though I was both a child and an adult all at the same time. It was weird." Just saying something can help everyone to get past the uncomfortableness.
3. R-E-S-P-E-C-T! Things will go smoother if everyone makes use of this one little word. As a parent, don't expect your child to return to being one of the mass (if you have a mass) of children in your home. Give them a heads up as to calendar items you would like them to be aware of. Ask them to join you instead of assuming. Don't assume they will become full-time babysitters upon their arrival. The student also needs to remember that there are other people in the house. Tell everyone ahead of time if you are going out. Tell them when you can be expected. Pitch-in with household chores. This is not a hotel you are staying at for a couple of months, but your family. Be considerate... all of you.
4. Siblings. Hey, college students! Your little siblings missed you while you were gone. You don't need to spend every waking hour with them, but don't ignore them either. You could even schedule some time to spend just with them. (My children are particularly good about doing this.) But, those siblings were also growing in the months you were gone, they are no longer the same people they were, either. Be careful not to treat them younger than now are. (This is another time where saying it out loud isn't a bad idea. Point out how capable the younger siblings have become in the student's absence.)
5. Different hours. College age students just keep different hours. You probably noticed when they were in high school that evenings and nights were better for communication. This is also true of college students. If you want to have a real conversation, wait until the littles are in bed and stay-up a bit later to have it. The trouble is, some of us parents have college students and preschoolers, thus giving us good early morning for one set and good night hours for another. That makes the hours for sleeping a bit shorter.
6. Enjoy them! The time when they are living at home is going to get shorter and shorter. Take joy in the time you do have with them. Don't waste these moments. Appreciate them. Take advantage of the time you have to love your children. Your relationship with them will be different, but as I remind myself and those around me, different isn't bad or good, it's just different.