Summer with your college student – Part 1
By Diane Schwemm
A couple of months ago my oldest son, a freshman, was exploring the possibility of a summer internship on campus. It would have been more interesting than returning to last summer’s job at the local Cineplex, but it didn’t work out, so he’s coming home. This could be the last summer he spends with us, so I’m really looking forward to it.
That said, I know I should prepare for significant changes in how our family functions. After he left in August, we adjusted to being a foursome, and now we’ll be back to five. His younger brother took over his bedroom, and the room Josh was “downsized” into became a dumping ground for various boxes and bins (and an enormous, anemic potted palm tree my middle son and I found on the side of the road wearing a “Free, Take Me!” sign).
So, while Josh is packing up his dorm room in Massachusetts, I’ll be busy cleaning at home. And I’ve been alerted by the experts (my friends who have older kids and have been through this already) that there are other things I should know about what’s around the corner.
- Summer may start slowly. It’s common for students to come home run-down, sleep deprived, and even sick (I wrapped up my own freshman spring semester with some all-nighters to finish schoolwork and promptly came down with a virus that delayed the start of my summer employment by weeks). Hopefully your student won’t come home sick, but he will certainly come home tired and will need to sleep and sleep some more. Patience is advised.
- Will work for food. Your student may not have a job lined up yet. This isn’t the end of the world, but he should start pounding the pavement as soon as he’s caught up on rest. In the meantime, he may or may not be interested in being hired by you (or friends and neighbors) to do some home/yard projects — it may depend on how low his bank account has gotten.
- Expect change. This person moved away from home and functioned independently for the better part of a year. He established an identity completely apart from the world where he grew up. Be ready for new interests, new friends, new domestic habits, a new conversational style, in my son’s case new facial hair… and have fun getting to know him again.
- Revisit house rules. Family rules and expectations usually need to adapt and it’s good to talk up front about what might work best for both of you. If you feel like a curfew is still in order, agree on a reasonable one; it may be that it’s more important to you to have the family car back in the garage by a certain time. Talk about what kind of help you expect around the house — maybe he’s not available to chauffeur his younger siblings any more but would be interested in something more adult, like cooking dinner now and then. With a job and a social life, your student may not be around a whole lot, but it’s fair to ask him to keep you posted on his schedule and whereabouts.
- Family time. Some students plug right back into the family routine, but others detach a bit after starting college. Include your student as you plan family trips and activities, and understand if he’s not on board for all of them. If something’s especially important to you, make sure he knows it and can commit to it. If he is free for an evening or weekend, invite him to set the agenda.
I usually wish time would slow down, but right now I can’t wait for summer and my son’s homecoming. Anyone want to adopt a large potted plant?