Harmonizing the home this summer
Summers home from college can be hard for parents and their college-aged children. Arguments often result, along with hurt feelings. As I’m spending the last summer at home before my senior year of college, I have been reflecting on what successfully maintained summer harmony—and what didn’t.
I am completing my degree in three years, so this is only my second summer home. However, the opportunities between last summer and this one covers the typical collegiate activities: a study abroad trip, an internship, an online course and a job. My parents see me a maximum of five hours a day during the week, and it has led to frustration on their part. I am home, it seems to them, but not really.
Our remedy is to savor every moment. Savoring happens during ordinary activities: a family walk with the dog, lingering around the table to talk, filling out the morning crossword puzzle together. It’s the little moments with my parents, squeezed into my day, that I love and treasure most.
It’s not all smiles, though. In high school, my parents took on the role of over- enthusiastic motivators. After two years away and acting as my own motivator, it can be irritating to be persistently told to complete the workloads for online courses. This is a common complaint we adolescents have against our parents: they nag too much! Of course, I know my parents “nag” because they care, but it’s an unwelcome shift back to my high school days.
Diffusing tension from nagging comes down to responsibility. I’ve found resisting the temptation to put off work is the best way to stop nagging. Choosing homework over summer fun—hanging out with friends, swimming, tanning—is tough, but provides incentive to finish my work. Another incentive is making my parents proud and more importantly, not giving them a reason to nag.
My experience is one of many summer scenarios students and parents confront, so I asked Sharon Klingman, an Advocate Medical Group licensed clinical counselor at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill, for some advice on how both parties can make the most of a college student’s time at home.
She offers this advice to parents and children:
- It’s important to remember the visit will be over quickly and the annoyances of a crazy schedule are better to let go.
- Plan the house rules ahead of the summer stay and consider the absolute non-negotiable expectations. Parents and children can then spend time together amiably instead of arguing.
- In order to be a responsible adult, college kids have to be allowed to make choices; leave room in the rules for responsibility.
College has been a transformative time for me and my relationship with my parents. The dynamics change as I continue discovering my adult identity. It’s not always fun to be “adulting” over the summer, but “it builds character!” as my dad says. When I have a free moment, I enjoy my time home—especially since my mom still does my laundry.
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