Home (Bitter) Sweet Home: A College Student Perspective

Dear Parents,
A little intro from a senior in college* and three-time champion of the smooth transition home for the summer. As the third child among my parents’ four darlings, I wasn’t the first college kid to come home for the summer and attempt to “rule the roost,” as my dad likes to say. The easy (ok, occasionally traumatic) transition was made possible by my two adoring parents who wanted nothing but the best for their kids.

The thing to keep in mind when laying down the law in your home, from the perspective of a college student, is to remember that we’ve been on our own for a year (or two, or three, or four) now, and we’ve gained a lot of independence. Sure the messy rooms, the lack of ability to do laundry and the spoiled attitude might say otherwise, but the reality is, we’ve thrown ourselves into new situations without the safety net of parents and have matured in ways that might not jump off the page…just yet.

Eight ways to survive your college student returning home for vacation.

It’s tough coming home to the requests of parents when, for so long, we’ve been planning our days just the way we want them: wake up at ten, go to class, workout, get lunch with friends…etc…etc….

A lot of parents won’t see the maturity of their kids when they come home for summer, because the truth is, we regress back to our high school selves. We know our parents are there to dish out a few bucks, to say no when we ask to do certain things, and to encourage us to get off the couch and to do something active, so we’re relaxed.

At school, we don’t have this back-up, and we’re forced to discipline ourselves, but you will never see that whilst we’re in the comfort of our homes. Even if your kids are acting like their seventeen – year old selves, try not to treat them as you did in the past, and hopefully they’ll get the picture. If you give them the independence they had in college, they will be encouraged to show you just how much they’ve matured while at school.

P.S. My dad would also like to note that college students should realize they are adults sharing a house with other adults.

Dear Students,
As finals wind down, most of us are packing up our rooms and getting ready to hit the open road back home. It’s a bittersweet feeling leaving the freedoms of school… ah, college…to return to the rules of our parents’ house. It’s a little difficult understanding the term “curfew” when you’ve spent the last nine months stumbling home as the sun comes up. The idea of “chores” seems obsolete when your room at school looks like a tornado hit it. Readjusting to life in your childhood home can be less than fantastic, whether you’re home for the summer after freshman year, or as a post-grad beginning the job search.

I can assure you, though, that if you focus on the positives, and try not to step on any toes along the way, these tips and tricks will make the transition as smooth as possible. It’s not easy listening to your parents after living a year without their rules, but it is important. Getting off on the wrong foot could literally ruin your entire summer.


1. Don’t Forget To Call

It’s easy to forget to report back to your parents because you’ve been on your own for so long but they take responsibility for you when you’re back at home. If you’re going to spend the night out, don’t forget to let them know. Margaret, a mother of four, like most mothers, is constantly worrying. “I can’t go to sleep unless I know where all my kids are” she admits. “Even a text is fine. I just want to know that everybody is safe.” Having a worried parent calling and looking for you all night is stressful for both parties. Just remember to update them every once in a while and it should be smooth sailing from there.

2. Help Out

Don’t underestimate the plate. Putting your plate away after a meal is so easy. It’s a simple act we often forget to do, especially once we get back home, but it’s not only a sign of respect it shows your parents that you’re not expecting them to wait on you, and that you’re mature. If you do little things around the house, like unpacking your clothes early, or keeping your room mildly clean, your parents are less likely to treat you like a child. Remember, if you act like you need their help, they’re going to come at you full throttle. Instead of getting annoyed at your parents for asking you to help out, just do it and move on….you get more bees with honey.

3. Remember What You’ve Been Missing

Keeping in mind all of those things that you love about home will make the move back effortless (well, almost.) Being at home has it’s perks, that’s for sure. Don’t forget, before you know it you will be back at school (or moving out.)

4. Be Respectful

By this I mean, remember that you are not at school and that your actions are affecting a lot more than just yourself now. Coming home at 4 am and heating up the leftovers from dinner is fine, as long as you’re quiet and avoid waking the entire house up.  Throw your house key in your purse before going out and you won’t have to worry about calling your parents in the wee hours of the morning to let you in the front door.

5. Blend In

Don’t do anything in the beginning of the summer that is going to put you on your parents’ radar. I find that with my siblings, as long as I blend in and do my best to not cause a scene, my parents are less overbearing. If you don’t give your parents a reason to worry, they’ll be more lenient. Keep in mind that your parents are watching your every move as soon as you get back. It can’t hurt to be on your best behavior for a couple of days as you settle in.

6. Curfew?

If your parents try to reinstate your old curfew, chances are you haven’t been on your best behavior. Stating a curfew is a means of control and if your parents are dating back to the high school years it’s most likely because they feel like you need rules to follow. If you are being responsible, checking in and acting mature, you should not have to worry about the old 1 am curfew coming back to haunt you.

7. Get a Job

Laying out in the sun and bumming around the house all day sounds like an ideal summer to most of us, but the reality is that we are in college and should be taking on the responsibilities of a job and making money. If you’re working hard your parents will take notice and not come down on you for petty things. It will be easier to ask for that extra cash for the concert at the end of the month if your parents know you’re doing your part, as well.

8. Summer Flings

We can all agree it’s a lot harder in the guy department while living under your parents’ roof. At school, it’s easy to hang out at your apartment with your guy. You never have to worry about introducing him to the fam. However, being at home gives you more of an opportunity to venture out and try new things (let’s be honest, how much fun is watching TV together, anyway?) Walk to your nearest ice cream shop on a nice summer night or get dinner and have a picnic in the park. Spending time with your guy in new ways is not only better for your relationship but it’s more fun!

Just remember, make the most of your summer at home. Spend time with your family and friends, make time for yourself, and enjoy all the little things that make home so special.

*About the author: Caroline Finnegan, a rising senior at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, posted on Her Campus.com some words of advice to the typical college student on returning home for the holidays or the summer in “Home (Bitter) Sweet Home: How to Deal with Returning Home for the Summer.” We loved her post and asked her if we could share it with all of you (thinking you might want to pass it along to certain members of your household!) and to add a few words of advice for parents as well. If only all twenty year olds were this sensible….

About Grown and Flown

Mary Dell Harrington and Lisa (Endlich) Heffernan are the co-founders of Grown and Flown the #1 site for parents of teens, college students and young adults, reaching millions of parents every month. They are writers (Lisa is a New York Times bestselling author), moms, wives and friends. They started the Grown and Flown Parents Facebook Group and are co-authors of Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults (Flatiron Books) now in paperback.

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