How to Optimize Your College Student's Visits Home
The arrival of your college student home for a visit is filled with lots of excitement from everyone! Creating a warm welcoming for him to come home to and preparing for how you spend this quality time will make all the difference in generating a fulfilling visit for everyone.
Here are a few ideas of how you can prepare and get the most out of your visit together:
1.Have Realistic Expectations – Both of you have changed during this transitional time of separation. Addressing some of these changes prior to your visit helps prevent any unwelcomed surprises. For example, if you moved one of your other children into her room, had some major changes done to the house or something important happened in the family it is better to share this prior to her visit. Likewise, it is important for you to learn about any obvious changes to your college student’s body, appearance or school experience, like getting a tattoo, changing the color of her hair or if she is struggling in school. Ask her if there is anything you should know about prior to their visit. It will allow time to digest the information.
2. Set up and clarify any new rules – Your relationship is morphing and you still have a structure you’d like to uphold at home. What are the new rules around the house now? Is there a new curfew? Or, is it okay now to have him just let you know where he is going and what time he expects to be back (common courtesy)? Do you expect him to pick up on doing the family chores like he used to while visiting? Is everyone on the same page with the new rules? Getting clear about what you'd like to see during his visits, behaviorally, and stating this to him will help him be able to be more respectful of your wishes.
3. Schedule in family time and connecting time – You may think that you are going to be able to spend a lot of time with your college student on their visit. The reality is that she wants to spend some quality time with her families. And, she wants to spend a lot of time with her friends. That’s why it’s important to schedule some specific family time, one-on-one time and planned activities during her stay. To ensure you get this quality time with her schedule it before she comes home for her visit. You will have a greater chance of creating this kind of quality time together. And, she’ll be prepared, ready and enjoying it too!
4. Pay attention to any signs of depression, anxiety, stress, etc. - Pay attention to how he is doing emotionally, mentally and behaviorally. If you notice a marked change in his moods or behaviors start asking some questions. How are you feeling in general about school and life? What are you doing to manage stress when it comes up? Are you feeling sad, hopeless or overwhelmed? Let him know professional help is available and it’s okay. It’s a sign of strength not weakness. Follow up on how he is doing as he is continuing back at school and help him seek help if needed. Only 7% of college student parents know their child is suffering with depression, anxiety and other disorders.
5. Set up a time to talk about school logistics – Discuss how she is doing being away at school with grades, managing money, self-care, socially, etc. This will help all of you feel like you are on the same page with the all-around issues related to his college experience. Sending her the message that you are interested and engaged in her college life and how she is managing in her new independence will be a step in building a more connected relationship. This isn't a time to be lecturing her but a time to create a safe place for her to feel supported and show you are curious about how she is really doing when she is away from home.
Setting up some structure to your visit can make all of you feel like you really had a positive, productive and supportive visit together. It is a great way to start building your new adult-adult relationship together!