They’re back! (And so is all their stuff!) While welcoming your college student back to the nest for the summer can be joyful; undoubtedly, there will be a period of adjustment as they settle in at home. After all, they’ve been on their own for a good while now, and so have you. This summer, we have our 20-year-0ld college junior home all summer, and our 24-year-old law student son home for part of the summer. What we’ve found is that it helps to be honest and open with our kids about expectations, be intentional about our relationships, and be prepared to have patience with the entire situation. Today I’m sharing the things we’ve talked about and done to get everyone on the same page.
1. Change happens.
When our kids left for college, we promised them we would leave their bedrooms “as is” until they were out of college. We did not make the same promise for the rest of the house, however! Once everyone was gone, we needed to undo the damage that years of three kids had done to our home. We’re not ready to move just yet, but we did start cleaning out, repainting, refinishing, and redecorating. The living areas in our home have changed dramatically. We love what we’ve done, but when our daughter came home for the first time, she burst into tears because “it didn’t look like home anymore.”
2. Growth Also Happens.
When kids are on their own at school for a year, growth is inevitable. It is an enormous lifestyle change. When parents are on their own at home for a year, growth is also inevitable. Adjusting to the empty nest is also an enormous lifestyle change. Ironically, your situations are somewhat similar! They’re used to coming and going as they please, and so are you. They’re used to eating what they want when they want. So are you. (Did I tell y’all about the night we had ice cream for dinner?) When they come home, they are adults in many ways. That means you have multiple adults, with multiple agendas, preferences, and quirks, sharing the same space. Everyone needs to acknowledge this and be prepared to be thoughtful and patient with one another.
3. Their stuff has multiplied; yours has diminished.
The photo at the top of this post is merely one of the piles of our daughter’s stuff! Make a plan for where and how they will store their stuff for the summer. Will they really need everything next year? If not, would they consider donating or passing some things along to a cousin or friend? Agree on a time limit for dealing with everything, and offer to help if they want you to.
4. Make a plan for meals, groceries, laundry, etc.
Are you planning to do all the cooking, laundry, and grocery shopping this summer? In our family, we asked each person to be responsible for doing their own laundry on a designated day. We take everyone’s schedule into account and make decisions about meals for the week, and who will be preparing them. I handle the grocery shopping with a once a week store run every Monday. We use the Wunderlist app to make a shared grocery list that everyone adds to throughout the week.
5. Set aside a specific time each week for a family meeting.
At the meeting, each person goes through their schedule for the week and brings up anything they feel like they need to discuss. While we started this as a purely practical way to keep up with everyone’s comings and goings, it has become a time of sharing the “big” things coming up in each of our lives with each other. After months of primarily focusing on ourselves, it’s had the benefit of helping all of us re-engage with each other emotionally and spiritually.
As you welcome your college kids back to the nest this summer, know that a little respect, patience, and an encouraging word will go a long way as you transition to an “adult” relationship. You can set the tone for this new phase of your relationship by listening more than speaking, asking good questions, and not falling back into parenting mode with your kids. Let them know that you want to respect them by waiting to be invited into their lives, and when they invite you in, be worthy of their trust.
What are your tips for welcoming your kids back to the nest? What has worked well in your family? I would love to know! Please leave me a comment and share your wisdom. We’re in it together!