What is the Secret to a Great First Visit Home from College?

The countdown has begun. In just a few short weeks, your darling daughter or darling son (here forth referenced as they) will take that first step over the threshold into your arms, and the fun will begin! You have spent weeks prepping; buying their favorite foods, planning the dinner menus, making sure they have all the creature comforts of home at their fingertips. Just imagine, you will do everything together for 3, 5, or 7 days. 

They will want to share all the juicy details of life away from home that you couldn’t get to during those short phone calls during which they needed you to do something for them or wire a little extra cash to make it through the month.

They will want to cuddle up and watch Hallmark Channel holiday movies, make the bird for the Thanksgiving feast together, hit the Black Friday sales to complete holiday lists, and start planning Spring Break and other family adventures.

Your college student will be home for the holidays soon. (Photo credit: Hilary Afshary)

Tread lightly when your kids first get home

Of course, you KNOW you WILL have to tread light lightly in the beginning; you KNOW first-hand how your barrage of questions can result in the “annoyance” and what that brings. After all, you DID learn something in that senior year leading into college. That is OK. You will give them 30-60 minutes to decompress, and then, your fantasy shall begin.

“Scccrrreeech.” Wake up, Cinderella! This is not a fairytale. For the 1%, that fantasy may materialize. For the other 99% of us, we will be met with the alternate tale.

Your child is exhausted. They ARE happy to see you AND could not be more excited to let their guard down and chill out for the next 3, 5, or 7 days. They have spent the last two months being “ON” 24/7. They cannot wait to turn off. Often, their number one priority is sleep. 

Let your newly returned teen sleep and decompress

They have not had a continuous 8-hour night of sleep since you dropped them off in late summer. Number two is connecting with all their high school friends. I mean, it has been a lifetime since they saw each other, and there is so much to discuss. For some, number three is catching a couple of shifts at work because YOU have put them on a budget that does not cover party money. And the list goes on. And, on. And, On.

We quickly become an hour or two a day on their schedule. Typically, the dinner hour and because we have spent hours prepping and waiting for it, we can become slightly annoyed and impatient if the conversation does not meet our expectations.

We are expecting the kid that we dropped off in the summer. We knew that kid.

We are not prepared for the adult who comes home

We are not prepared for the adult that comes home. More independent. More confident. Not really needing input or advice. Not living under curfews or parental rules. Not talking as much about the day-to-day details of life but more about the big picture. A young adult.

We are experiencing a bit of shock, but conversely, if we can set aside our own annoyance, we feel our chest bursting with pride. This is what we spent the last 18 years working towards a successful launch. They are doing It. Well, most of it.

We are still doing laundry, cooking, dishes, etc. But they are doing it!!! And we are happy. And we are adjusting to the new them. I do not have a magic wand to turn your reality into your fantasy, but somewhere in that newly minted young adult is a craving for your comfort.

Tips to try with your teen when they get home from college

  • Wait for them to tell you versus asking. They may surprise you.
  • Listen without commenting; if they want advice, they will ask. The more you listen, the more likely they will ask.
  • Become comfortable with silence; sometimes, they just need to be near you.
  • Maybe throw a puzzle on the table and strategically do it when they walk by.
  • Suggest inviting their friends over; you may catch a few minutes of chit-chat before they disappear into the basement.
  • If you attend church, put Mass as a must on the calendar. It could be good for everyone.
  • Keep yourself busy. This is just one point in time, and there will be more. 

Don’t stop your entire life for these few days. And, if all else fails, or even if it doesn’t, sit on the couch in the evening before they go out with an extra blanket and a bowl of popcorn. No one can resist the smell of a newly popped bowl of buttered corn.

More Great Reading:

My Son’s Home from College for the First Time. Here are My Thoughts for Him

About Hilary Afshary

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