The student you dropped off at college in September may not be the same person who comes home for the holidays in December. They'll have enjoyed some newfound independence, followed their own schedules, made new friends, and — thanks to classes and professors and experiences with their peers — started questioning some of the ideas and routines they took for granted.
So how should parents approach these moments when their young adults reconnect with the familiarity of home? In the Loop asked for advice from parents who have been through this transition before. Many of their answers overlapped, from "let them sleep" to "give them the car keys." Other insights were as different as the students and families involved.
Whatever your situation, whatever you encounter, Instructor of Health Sciences Heidi Monroe sums it up with this: "These college kids are still 'adolescents' and really don't have it all figured out. Their moods can change like the Northwest weather. The balance for parents can be impossible to find, so don't be too hard on them — or on yourself." Enjoy this season with your students!
Karen Altus, Career Counselor in SPU's Center for Career and Calling
"Each time she comes home for a holiday I try to put my needs aside and give her space. I avoid asking questions and instead share things about myself, our family, the dog. When I treat her as a friend and just listen with interest, I get wonderful stories and more information than my questions would likely produce."
Donna Dahlstrom, Accountant and Business Agent, SPU's Center for Professional Education
"Don't jump to conclusions about their future, faith, and friends. College is a time of exploration and discovery and changes. If you're not thrilled by their present selections, think back on those changing stages of childhood and keep praying for them in the stage they're in. And let them continue to wash their own laundry. They learned how (hopefully) so don't let them out of the habit!"
Gabrielle Dudley, Director of Development for the Seattle Pacific University Foundation
"You may have forgotten that technology is like breathing for them. Without it, life as they know it is OVER. So don't be shocked when they spend hours every day on their laptops and cell phones!"
Heidi Monroe, RN, Instructor in SPU's School of Health Sciences
"Gently ease [your student] back into helping with chores. We try to approach it adult-to-adult. Instead of 'Hey, please take out the trash!' it's more like, "Which family chores would you be willing to take on while you're home in order to help out? We'd really appreciate your help.'"
Susan Siverson, Budget and Information Systems Manager for SPU's School of Education
"Don't use guilt to make your student spend time with you. Schedule and plan with them as you would a friend. Don't expect them to drop plans with their friends just to hang out with you. Plan ahead for special times together, so your student can include these events in their schedule."
Richard Sleight, Manager of Information Systems in SPU's School of Business and Economics
"Be careful what you buy for them to put under the Christmas tree. They have new needs and wants — which might require a little sleuthing. Keep up the family holiday traditions. And restock with the foods they like."
Dave Tindall, Assistant Vice President for SPU Technology Services
"Expect that your student will start their evening socializing (texting, phone calls) about 10 p.m., not really decide what they want to do until 11 p.m., actually get organized enough to do it by 11:30 p.m., and then seem mystified about why you're concerned they want to go out at midnight."
Judy Whaling, SPU Parent Council member
"Our task is to shift to being mentors and supporters as they shift from adolescents to young adults. Our influence as allies replaces the direct control we once enjoyed. Our young people need our hope that they can succeed academically, socially, and spiritually. Be prepared to listen about difficult situations they've faced or will face. It's okay not to have the answers; what's important is allowing the concerns to be heard and known."