Parents: Going From ‘Empty Nester’ to Summer Break ‘Host’

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It starts with dropping your child off at college with tears in your eyes. You spend the entire school year missing them. But then comes an extended break, like summer, and you’re ready to ship them off again! The transition from empty nester to hosting summer breaks can be difficult, but these tips help you enjoy your time with your college-aged kids.

 

Discuss the Ground Rules Before They Head Home

If your student is still in school, now is the perfect time to discuss what you expect of them during the summer break. Remind them that you’re not their maid, driver, or cook. If they have survived all year in the dorms on their own, they can certainly pick up their room or do their own laundry when they are back living with you.

You will also want to go through curfews, family time, and visits from romantic partners. These are all tricky, sensitive subjects that you can turn a blind eye to when they are out of the house. But when summer comes, you’ll need to reevaluate your rules or expectations for them.

Remember that they have lived independently for the last nine months. That means that they may be unused to checking in when they go out late at night or asking if they can eat out of your pantry. Your best bet is to listen to their concerns and meet them halfway, such as moving curfew up from 10 o’clock until 1 AM or later.

 

Plan Out Family Time With Them and Schedule It Online

Summer is one big opportunity to reconnect with family members. But for a student who is working, visiting friends, taking summer classes, etc., it can be easy to forget that part. Work with your student to set up a weekly night together to do something everyone will enjoy.

Have them pick the activity or encourage a laid back event, such as seeing a movie or checking out a new museum together. While it may not be something you’re interested in, the key is getting quality time with them.

If your family does a summer vacation, be sure they know that they are (or are not) invited. Talk about who is paying for what, where they are expected to sleep, and allow them to make decision on things like the hotel, the restaurants, or any guests (if allowed). Again, it’s important to remember and respect that they are now adults who have successfully lived independently. Vacationing like children may backfire.

Finally, schedule everything online. As we mentioned, college students are busy, even over the summer! The best way to communicate that you would like to spend time with them is, at first, an in-person convo and then putting the date in a shared family calendar app.

 

Remember: Little Things Go a Long Way

Having a college-aged adult living with you is odd. On one hand, they seem to want nothing to do with you outside of the free place to crash in between semesters. The next, they may be upset because you’re not upholding some silly tradition they liked when they were a kid.

First, remember that they are still sensitive to your words. Being judgemental on things like their strange hair color, how much they sleep on their days off, or their sudden love of frisbee can cause friction that can ruin your time together. So don’t sweat the small stuff.

Instead, appreciate the little things. Verbally express how much you love having them around or how you love cooking an old family recipe with them. Share a new interest you may have developed while they were gone and ask them their opinions on things like the color of a new car you’re buying or a birthday gift for your spouse.

Surviving summer break is a balancing act that requires open dialogue between you and your student. By keeping things light and positive and being sure to respect their experiences and needs, you can make it a memorable break for everyone.   

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OCM Staff
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