For many parents, this Thanksgiving will be the first time their teen is coming home from college for the holidays. They’ve been living in dorms or apartments, studying, partying, and reveling in their independence, and now the family gets to reunite. It’s something many parents look forward to, but may worry about as well.
Teens in college have been eating, sleeping, studying, and living independently for at least a couple of months. They’ve lived with few rules. How will they behave when back in their old home? Will there be fights, or will they just be thrilled to have someone do their laundry for them?
Of course, every teen is different. But here are some common things that parents notice when teens are home from college.
- They are sleeping 12-14 hours a night. Most college students do not get enough sleep around exam time (or in general), and it’s not unusual for them to play catch-up when they come home. It’s fine, it’s healthy, and their body needs it. Unless there’s something they have to do, let them sleep in.
- They are always running off to be with their high school friends. While it’s certainly valid to request some family time, remember that college is a new experience for them, and they’re dying to share their new life- as well as get nostalgic about their old life- with their peers.
- They expect you to do their laundry, clean their room, and basically pick up after them. As newly-minted adults who are expected to do these things for themselves, it may feel good to have Mom or Dad pamper them a little bit. It won’t hurt if you feel like doing it. Neither will it hurt to point out where the washer and dryer are, in case they forgot.
- They don’t expect rules like curfew to apply to them anymore. Your view is that it’s your house, and you set the rules. Their view is that they never have a curfew at college, so what is the point of having one now? See if you can compromise on this one. Perhaps a later curfew than they used to have is warranted, or there’s no set curfew but required times to call & “check in”.
- They want “overnight guests” and you’re not comfortable with it. Like curfew, you both have a point. They may have been crowding into a twin bed with their romantic partner every night at college, but they are in your house now, and you get to decide where people sleep. (I can’t guarantee they won’t find a creative way to meet during the night!)
- They are constantly on the phone/ computer with their boyfriend/ girlfriend/ best friends from college. It can be disconcerting for your teen to spend all their time with someone and then suddenly be removed from them. Remind your teen gently that they will see a lot of their new partner/ friends soon, but you won’t get to see them for a while!
- They are suddenly vegan/ libertarian/ Occupying Wall Street/ etc. Teens who go away to college are faced with a whole new world of philosophies. Sometimes in order to figure out what they think, they have to “try on” ideologies first. Don’t belittle or fight with them. They need to figure out their world view for themselves, and they may be experimenting with perspectives they didn’t see much of at home. Unless you think they’re getting involved in something truly dangerous (like a cult or drugs), focus on learning about what they’re thinking instead of disagreeing with it.
Even with the tumult, it can be wonderful to see your child blossoming into an adult, preparing for a future career, and figuring out who they are. They will tell you stories that make you laugh, and you will give them advice that they will take to heart- and perhaps vice versa. Enjoy the time you have with them. It’s okay to feel both sad and relieved as they make their way back to school!