Par­ents of col­lege fresh­men face sum­mer­time chal­lenges

North Penn Life - - OPINION - Dr. Caryn Rich­field

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 dr­crich-field@aol.com.

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