Parents of college freshmen face summertime challenges
As many college freshmen wrapped up their final exams, packed up their dorm rooms and said their final good- byes recently, some had the prospect of facing the transition of returning home for their first summer since leaving for college.
More often than not, both students and their parents find themselves unprepared for the myriad of challenges that will await them as this anticipated reunion gets underway.
For returning freshmen who have just completed the most stressful yet growth- enhancing year of their life, coming home for the summer can be a difficult adjustment.
High school friendships may feel more distant, due to fewer shared experiences and diminishing common ground.
Deeper bonds with newly made college friends can be difficult to maintain over the summer months due to geographic distance.
Returning freshmen often feel exasperated by pa- rental concerns about their whereabouts, their level of productivity as well as the disorganization of their belongings around the house. After all, they are used to coming and going as they please and making their own decisions, and it isn’t easy for most college students to be back under their parents’ roof with rules and expectations.
Parents also find that coping with the re- entry of their college freshman can be challenging, to say the least. Those who are empty- nesters may find it difficult when faced once again with more grocery shopping, laundry and disruption to a more simplified routine.
On the other hand, those parents who anticipated bonding and gratifying connection with their returning student may be faced with their heightened need for boundaries and growing indepen- dence instead.
Younger siblings still at home have their own adjustment, as their bond with an older brother or sister who returns from college often feels different than it once was. College students returning home for the summer do have to realize that they are living in their parents’ house and may have to give up certain privileges that they enjoyed at school. Life at home is different from living in a college dorm where blaring music or strolling in at 4 a. m. is the norm.
It is important that parents and their returning students sit down and work out compromises that respect the needs and limitations of both sides, as this will pave the way for more harmonious living in this new chapter of family life.
The transition into a new family dynamic after freshman year requires parents to acknowledge and respect the developmental changes that will be apparent in their returning student.
Parents should be prepared for the fact that the high school senior who was sent out into the world months ago may be coming home manifesting changes that will be difficult to accept and embrace. It is most important that parents provide encouragement and support to facilitate communication and demonstrate receptivity when their young adult speaks his or her mind more openly.
Parents must remember that validating their college student’s growth and independence will allow for more connectedness and a deeper adult relationship that will flourish in the years to come.
Dr. Caryn Richfield is a clinical psychologist in Plymouth Meeting. She can be reached at 610238- 4450 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.