Noticeable changes can happen the summer before college classes begin. Your once sociable, friendly, happy-go-lucky son or daughter may suddenly be moody, cranky, or even downright ticked off. You might find yourself bickering with your child about little things-the trash being taken out, buying school clothes, or even just eating dinner as a family.
What’s Going On?
A lot of college-bound students get a little testy in their last months at home. This is a huge transition time for them (and you!), and often students find it intimidating and overwhelming.
Your child’s new argumentative nature may likely be the only way he/she knows how to cope. In fact, students create a distance between themselves and other family members by arguing-it is often thought of as a defense mechanism. Subconsciously your child determines that disconnecting a little bit now will make it less painful to move out at the end of the summer months.
Bottom line? This is normal behavior for many students, and it doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong as a parent, or that your student is heading for trouble in college!
What Can I Do?
First of all, be patient. This is a major time of transition-not just for your student, but also for you as a parent, and for your other children who are experiencing “losing” a sibling. Try to be understanding of this, and focus on diffusing touchy situations with your son or daughter, remembering that they need your support now more than ever.
- Connect (or Reconnect)
In the few weeks you have left, take some time to connect one-on-one with your student. Do something you both enjoy-anything from shooting some hoops or getting a manicure and pedicure to enjoying a chocolate-dipped ice cream cone-but that also allows you to share what’s going on with each other. Remember to focus on being a listening ear rather than trying to force your own agenda.
- Offer Other Support
If your student shows signs of concern, you might suggest that they talk to a friend or relative closer to their own age about what college is like. (We also have a student oriented blog, SurvivingCollegeLife.com, where your student can learn about the ins and outs of college life). Some colleges also offer free mentoring programs that might be helpful.
- Address the “Elephants in the Room”
Now is the time to start setting more grown-up ground rules for your son or daughter’s transition into adulthood-and you should both have a say in that. Let your student express his or her wishes for how and when to connect with you during school (phone calls, emails, visits home, etc.) and how they envision their college experience. Also let them know of your expectations and/or concerns about grades, behavior, work, etc.
- Family Ties
If you have younger children, it is especially important to spend some extra special time as a family. Whether it’s a shopping trip, Monday night dinners, or a family weekend at the beach, take advantage of this time together-and help your younger children figure out how they can keep in touch with their college-bound sibling. Your family is heading for a change, so this is your opportunity to really enjoy being together before your son or daughter heads off to school in the fall.
All the best,