My heart pounded with anticipation as I waited on the train platform to greet my freshman daughter. This was to be her first visit home since leaving for college at New York University three months earlier. It had not been an easy three months for either of us. 9/11 was still a vivid memory, one that my daughter witnessed first hand living by Washington Square Park. True I had been to see her during parents weekend and for her late September birthday, but this was coming home to the nest at last! Visions of dinners with all her favorite foods and lively conversation made me smile with contentment.
She breezed off the train with a sophisticated air, looked around, sniffed and said, “ I might want to go back early to New York, and not spend the entire Thanksgiving weekend at home.” Aside from feeling like a turkey with the stuffing knocked out of it, I wondered what had changed?
The transition to college is a monumental one for both parents and students. Let’s take a look at how both sides view visits home and explore some tips for easing the rough spots. It helps to think of the family system like a mobile. When pieces are added or removed the balance shifts and wobbles until equilibrium is established again. When a child leaves home both they and the family have to readjust, develop new interactions and routines. Once that child returns, all feels out of balance once again. As a parent you might feel like you no longer have the control that you once had. As a student used to being independent and living by your own rules, you might resent what you perceive as stifling parental demands. Siblings also have to readjust, sharing family time and resources.
More tips to follow...