They’re Ba-aack! Coping When College Kids Come Home for the Holidays

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

When he left, he was your child whose meals you prepared and whose laundry you dutifully did.  Now he’s home from college for an extended winter break – possibly bringing with him more laundry for you to do.

For parents readjusting to life with their college students at home for a few weeks, it can be…an adjustment.

“Be open to the changing dynamics of your relationship with your college student son or daughter,” advises Natalie Petyk, Psy.D., a psychologist with the Counseling and Psychological Services Center at Saint Joseph’s University.  “For the college student coming home, it’s a balancing act between their new-found desire for independence and their continuing need for parental support.”

There’s readjusting taking place on both sides, Petyk points out. Parents who have become accustomed to a new household and family rhythm with the absence of their son or daughter may feel disrupted by the energy blast – and noise level – that accompanies their returning student.

"And parents don’t know if their returning child is wearing adult clothing and basking in the glow of becoming more independent, or wanting to regress to being a kid and taking a break from adult responsibilities,” she says, adding that the college student is trying to figure out who they are as well.

Petyk cites a recent survey that found 63 percent of college students said they would turn to their parents if they found themselves in emotional distress.  “Parents are still a go-to source of support, so give your son or daughter the space to initiate those conversations while they’re home,” she says.

And while they’re at home, family members may have to negotiate new expectations – around curfews, using the family car, pitching in around the house.  “Remember, for both parent and college student, it’s a balancing act.”

To reach Petyk, call her at the Saint Joseph’s Counseling Center, 610-660-1090, or email her at npetyk@sju.edu or contact the Office of University Communications, 610-660-1222.



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