College kids home for the summer? Expect it to be a balancing act for all

They’ve tasted independence and some of the privileges of adulthood. So, how can parents make this an easier transition?

In the spring and early summer, many college students return home after living in a dorm with several hundred 18- to 21-year-olds. They’re used to making their own decisions, going to bed, eating when they want, and coming and going as they please — total freedom.

And then they arrive back to their childhood home. Let the wild ride begin.

I remember those days well. My daughters were always happy to come home — at least for the first few weeks. But then, our shine would wear off, and pretty soon, we returned to the same old conflicts we saw in high school. I could find one daughter by following a wake of shoes, coke cans and magazines that trailed behind her. Mornings, I would come downstairs and see a kitchen sink filled with baking tins, dishes, cups and bowls crusted over with flour — sigh, late night baking.

But what do college students think about being home? I asked a college student who had returned home after her freshman year to inquire about her friends’ perspectives on coming back home.

What is it like being home for the summer?

“Interesting juxtaposition of novelty of being home and falling back to old habits.”

“Family life just kind of resumes. They expect you to go back to adhering to the rules.”

“Boring; other than work, there is nothing to do other than read and spend endless hours on the internet.”

“Awesome; easier to do laundry. My mom just does it! Now have a car. Sister has to adjust. Now we have to share a bathroom again.”

“Like it; freedom to go places, but not “on my own.”

What are the challenges of being home?

“Making money, getting a job.”

“Staying in contact with friends. Focus on being with parents.”

“Have to chauffer sister around; high school friends spread out.”

“My parents are treating me like I’m still a high school senior.”

“It was nice at first. But now I am itching to get back to school because of parental rules.”

“I have to obey my parent’s rules.”

So, how can parents make this an easier transition?

There’s no going back. The first couple of years of college are transformational for most young people. Your college student comes home and has a set of new experiences that have changed their view of themselves and the world. They’ve tasted the joy of independence and some of the privileges of adulthood.

Establish clear expectations and revisit them regularly. I always expected my kids to work during summers, but some years they had different ideas. I wanted them to clean up after themselves (good luck!) and they wanted to come and go as they pleased. I needed to know when they would come home at night. All these issues need to be addressed and then revisited regularly during the summer. The tendency is for both parents and kids to fall back into old patterns of behavior — both good and bad ones.

Cut them some slack. Establish a few clear expectations that you hold onto firmly, but don’t go overboard. Recognize that they’re transitioning and that being at home can also be challenging for them. Going from total freedom to following your parent’s rules is hard.

Breathe easy. They’ll be back in school soon. Before you know it, college students will be back in their late adolescent pressure cooker, and their younger brother and sister will get their bathroom back. Life will return to the new “normal” for everyone.

Paul Schoenfeld is a clinical psychologist at Optum Care Washington, formerly The Everett Clinic.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Life

Performers joust during the Washington Midsummer Renaissance Faire at Sky Meadows Park in Snohomish, Washington, on Sunday, Aug. 06, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Royalty and revelry: The spirit of the Renaissance comes to Monroe

The annual Renaissance fair will open its doors every weekend from July 20 to Aug. 18

A dog sticks their head out the window as a part of a Wandering Rover Field Trip at the Everett Animal Shelter in Everett, Washington on Wednesday, July 17, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Doggy dates: Wandering Rover at Everett shelter gives dogs a day out

The program offers people the opportunity to try a dog before they adopt or to simply get their Fido fix.

Trees and foliage grow at the Rockport State Park on Wednesday, April 3, 2024 in Rockport, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
When you get lost in WA, what’s the cost to get rescued? Surprisingly little

Washington’s volunteer search and rescue teams save lives without costly bills.

A booking error leads to a nonrefundable hotel room, or does it?

Glen Hartness books the wrong night at La Quinta through the Priceline app. Why won’t Priceline refund the booking?

Mona Newbauer, 62, pours caramel into a machine inside her store Sweet Mona's Chocolates on March 21, 2024 in Langley, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Sweet Mona’s Chocolates in Langley stirs up treats for all tastes

Chocolate slugs, whales, truffles and caramels are among sweets in the shop Mona Newbauer founded in 2006.

Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

What do Patti Labelle, John Legend, Mudhoney, Dwight Yoakam have in common? They’re all performing locally this weekend.

2024 Infiniti QX50 Autograph (Photo provided by Infiniti)
Infiniti QX50 Autograph

The 2024 Infiniti QX50 Autograph AWD crossover delivers top-notch luxury, tailored design,… Continue reading

The five-passenger 2024 Mazda CX-5 compact SUV comes standard with all-wheel drive. (Photo provided by Mazda)
2024 Mazda CX-5 proves function can be fun

The compact SUV is practical and sporty at the same time.

2024 Mercedes E 350 4MATIC sedan (Photo provided by Mercedes)
2024 Mercedes E 350 4MATIC sedan

In this time of rapid change in the automotive industry, it’s nice… Continue reading

Animal Chaplain Shel Graves has her dog Lily pose for a photo in her home office on Tuesday, July 9, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Is your dog or cat grieving? There’s an animal chaplain for that

Chaplains offer spiritual care for beings of all species: “Absolutely, animals do feel grief and loss.”

I scream, you scream, we all scream for … glace? Well, in France, yes.

This ice cream vendor toy, which sold for $1,800 at auction, reminds us of France’s role in popularizing the summer treat.

Lily of the Scheherazade variety with red-white flowers from the Oriental-Tubular (OT) hybrids group. Decorative plant in the garden
Great Plant Pick: Scheherazade Orienpet Lily

What: Once mature, this giant lily makes a stunning presence in the… Continue reading

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.