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Saturday, June 27, 2015

When Your College Kid’s Home for the Summer

Has your college kid moved back home for the summer? Your family is likely thrilled to have them under your roof again, but you all may be experiencing a bit of tension, fueled by your undergrad’s emotional state.

Perhaps they are struggling with the loss of independence, missing college friends, disappointed that high-school friendships aren’t what they used to be, uninspired at a summer job, frustrated to have to follow your rules or just really, really bored.

Your child is probably a bit anxious about being home.

Teenagers usually go off to college with a sense of excitement about the prospect of being on their own. It’s often their first taste of freedom from their parent. Your teen has spent a year in a more unstructured and unsupervised environment. They have new friends you probably don’t know. It was a year of growth and, in reality, you may not know your child as well as you used to.  Now they come home to a family that expects them to be the same person as you dropped off at school a year earlier.

For all of these reasons, it’s common to be a bit anxious about coming home. 

We asked parenting expert Sue Scheff to help parents better understand the state of mind of their living-at-home-again college student, and how they might help their child best cope and stay healthy and safe during this time of transition. She shared four things to keep in mind. (Partnership for Drug Free Kids)
One way to ease your teen’s anxiety is to talk with them about what they are going through. Remain calm, and really listen. Put yourself in their shoes and try to think about how you felt when you were that age. Remember to ask lots of open-ended questions (questions designed to elicit more than just a “yes” or “no” response) that keep conversations moving in the right direction.

Establish mutual respect by discussing the rules together

Respect is a two-way street.  Make it clear that you’ll respect their independence and will make allowances as they are now maturing into an adult, however, respecting your household rules, are a must.  Instead of getting caught up in a power play, remain calm and curious and treat them with the respect they want in return.
As soon as your college kid arrives home, sit down and negotiate the household rules and what you expect.  Be sure to discuss curfews, chores, if you expect your son or daughter to get a summer job, as well as your feelings about drinking and substance use. Instead of lecturing, have a conversation, respect their opinions and let them feel heard. 
You don’t have to agree to every request, but giving a voice will make your children feel understood.
Also, use this as an opportunity for your teen to establish what they expect from you in return regarding their own personal wishes.

Help your child learn coping skills

Your teen may be struggling to figure out where they belong. Friends may have changed, and maybe things aren’t exactly the way they thought they would be. Have a conversation with a sense of understanding and compassion.
Whatever it is your kid’s are  facing, help them understand that not everything in life will go the way we want it to. Learning healthy coping skills is an important part of being an adult. And using alcohol or drugs to cope with emotional pain is not a solution.
Show your concern and ask permission to help find healthy alternatives to dealing with difficult feelings than turning to drugs. Sit down with your teen and have them make a list of positive skills to implement in day-to-day life while at home. This could be whatever they enjoy, including sports, yoga, listening to music, hiking, dancing or even trying out a new activity. Volunteering is a great way to broaden awareness, meet new people and give back to others and it also instills self-esteem to help make better choices.
However, it’s important to stay alert to possible mental health issues. Between the ages of 18 and 25 are when a lot of disorders, like anxiety, can develop. There is a strong link between mental and physical health issues and the use of drugs and alcohol. Be sure to find mental health resources for your child if needed.

If they are drinking and using drugs

If you suspect your teen has a substance abuse problem, call the Partnership’s Toll-Free Helpline (1-855-DRUGFREE) to speak with a trained specialist.

Here are expert tips on what to do if you know your 19-25 year old is using:

Don’t overlook the prescription drugs in your home, which teens often have easy access to and can abuse. Be sure your prescription medicines are secured and that expired/unused medicines in your home are properly disposed of.

It is important to note that car crashes are the leading cause of death for US teens. And, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is the deadliest for drivers ages 15-20. Drinking and driving, and texting while driving, are incredibly dangerous. Make it clear to your child this behavior is unacceptable, and that if she needs a ride or help getting out of a situation, you are there for him or her.

Lastly, remind them that you love and care about them, and you are there to talk about these — or any other issues they may be dealing with. 

It’s not all about the topic of drinking, drug use and safety — it’s about maintaining a generally healthy, supportive relationship. Your child needs to know that if any problems or difficult situations arise, they can always turn to you for help –  whether away at college or back at home.
Sue is an author, parent advocate, cyber advocate and the founder and president of Parents’ Universal Resource Experts Inc. (P.U.R.E., 2001). Over the past decade, P.U.R.E. has gained both national and international recognition for its success in helping thousands of parents locate safe and effective therapeutic schools and programs for their at-risk teens.