For parents who have teenagers returning home from college for the first time, these next few weeks can be extremely exciting. In theory, it is a time to reconnect as a family, celebrate the holidays and enjoy each other’s company. What may play out in reality however, could look a little bit different.
The young child who left your house this summer, wide-eyed and naive, is now returning home a more independent and self-reliant young adult. Although its a wonderful thing to witness, it can create a shift in the dynamic at home that will take some getting used to.
As a parent, there are some important aspects to take into consideration to help encourage a harmonious homecoming. First and foremost, it is essential to try and see things from your child’s perspective. Your son or daughter is excited about returning home and experiencing the nostalgia of what’s familiar and comfortable, while also possessing the desire to maintain their autonomy that they have worked so hard to establish. This may be a difficult avenue as a parent to navigate and could trigger similar feelings within you – the desire to treat your child like the youngster you’ve known and loved for 17 years while also wanting to encourage and support their own growth and development.
In order to establish this wonderful balance, you will now become a consultant of sorts. Your role is no longer to enforce rules, but rather, to help strengthen your child’s ability to make decisions on their own. So instead of anticipating this opportunity to instill specific expectations, talk to your child; allow him or her the opportunity to express their opinions and how they want to spend their time at home. Instead of enforcing or coercing them into compliance, try to get your child to see things from all perspectives and to weight out all of their options.
We as parents are very accustomed to being the ones doing the talking. That is no longer the case for you. Your role now is to support, to guide, and to listen. Your advice is still extremely valuable, but if your son or daughter feels as though they are being disciplined, they will shut you out.
This is a powerful moment in your life, where you can begin to build a new dynamic between you and your child – one where you can both feel heard and respected. Once you have created this platform for your child to speak his or her mind, they will be more open to hearing your opinions and together, you can establish compromise and understanding.
In doing all of this, the time you spend together will be even more enjoyable, as you become acquainted to the young adult who was once your baby.