published Sunday, May 5th, 2013

Baumgardner: Return home can test college students, parents

By Julie Baumgardner

In a few weeks, college students will be home for the summer. After spending 10 months with no curfew, no chores and nobody to answer to about their comings and goings, the homecoming has the potential to be rocky, especially for freshmen.

"We weren't exactly sure what to expect when our daughter came home from her freshman year," says Kim Clausen. "She was used to being on her own. When I asked where she was going and when she would be back, I got looks like, 'Why do you need to know that.' We had to reacclimate to her being home, and she had to get used to being with us. We all survived, but it took some adjustment on everybody's part. Things were definitely different."

The Clausens, like so many other families, had settled into a new routine with their two teens still at home. They were excited about their daughter coming home and honestly had not thought a lot about adjustments they would need to make as they brought her back into the fold.

"If we had it to do over again, we would have a conversation prior to her returning home about expectations, schedules and the like," says Clausen. "When she is away, she can do what she wants, but when we are trying to juggle work, the schedules of our other two teens and life in general, we need everybody to be on the same page."

Clara Sale-Davis finds herself exactly where the Clausens were a year ago. Her daughter will be home soon, and she already has been thinking about how to make the transition easier.

"I remember when I went home for the summer," says Sale-Davis. "I thought I was going to be running around doing whatever I wanted. Mom would wash my clothes and have dinner ready. I quickly found out I was delusional. While I am honored that my daughter wants to come home for the summer, I wanted to be proactive with her so she would know what to expect."

Sale-Davis let her daughter know that while they wanted home to be a haven, it would not be a resort. She encouraged her daughter to find a job, told her that chores would be awaiting her and discussed what seemed reasonable for everyone when it comes to staying out late with friends.

"I thought it would be better to have the conversation ahead of time," says Sale-Davis. "We talked over the phone, and I could hear her eyes rolling. It isn't that I don't trust her. We just don't need to worry unnecessarily."

Here are some suggestions for making it a pleasant summer for everyone.

• Establish expectations. Know your priorities, communicate them clearly and discuss what is and is not negotiable. Be clear about what will happen if they do not adhere to your expectations.

• Don't expect your young adult to have the same mindset they had when they left for college. They have been making decisions for themselves for a year. Encourage them to continue to do so while respecting the house rules.

• Choose your battles carefully. If you are encouraging them to make their own decisions, realize that they may not make the same decisions you would make for them.

• Take this time to help your college student understand what it will be like when they are finally out on their own, paying rent, bills and doing their own laundry.

The transition to home from college can be complicated. While young adults are in the process of becoming more independent, they still rely on their parents in many ways, including providing a roof over their head during the summer months -- not to mention paying college tuition.

Email Julie Baumgardner, president and CEO of First Things First, at julieb@firstthings.org.

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