This is a shout-out to my fellow empty nest moms who have navigated the first semester of kids in college or gone from home. Woot woot! We’ve almost made it through the year, no small accomplishment.
Spring break is just days away for my college-age kids, and I need to let you in on a secret: I’m a little scared. One of our kids will be road-tripping to a sunny destination with friends; the other will be spending the week with us at home.
I feel like the emotional roller coaster of getting everyone in their school routines has just leveled out, only to be upended by this change in schedule. Without a plan in place for one child’s return and another’s unsupervised absence, I’m terrified the week will be a clash of unrealistic expectations.
Whether your college kid is coming home, taking off for a destination with friends, or there’s a family trip in the works, you can look forward to a week of reconnecting and happy memories by taking a few minutes to come up with a simple plan. Never fear, I’ll show you how.
I can still remember my rude awakening having my oldest come home from college on his first winter break. All I thought of, leading up to his return, was how I would be able to give him a hug whenever I wanted. I dreamed of catching up late into the evening and watching favorite movies together while eating popcorn on the couch.
The reality was quite different. He and his size 13 shoe-wearing friends descended on the house like locusts, eating every carb in sight. Just when I got use to having their banter in the kitchen, they would change course and spend the next day and a half raiding another mom’s kitchen.
Meaningful conversation was few and far between during that holiday. Instead, my husband and I spent most of our mental energy renegotiating boundaries with our son, who had been use to coming and going as he pleased. By the end of that first break, we were all quite ready to part ways and regroup.
Spring break takes on a flavor all it’s own in the spectrum of college breaks. Unlike the longer winter break, spring break is usually only one-week long- hardly enough time to tackle any major relationship goals. In addition, most college kids view the spring break as a pit stop before the finish line of finals, and would rather spend that week with friends than with parents.
Talk Through Expectations
Simply being aware of your expectations as parents versus your collegiate’s expectations for the week will take you far. Schedule a short conversation with your young adult and spend most of the time listening to their hopes for the week. If your child is spending time with family, your goal should be to share one simple expectation from your end. Some examples are:
- Spend one evening at the movies
- Have lunch with a grandparent
- Go out to breakfast as a family two mornings
Recent statistics state that 50% or more of collegiates plan a spring break with friends. If this is your reality and you won’t be seeing your young adult, you can still plan a connection or two.
Technology is your friend in this regard. If your kid is spending time vacationing, schedule a chat via text. I’ve learned that, if I give my son a couple of days to decompress, I can usually expect a short conversation where he brings me up to speed on his activities. If I’m lucky, I’ll even get a few photos or face time.
Set some ground rules
Whether your collegiate will be in another state or under your roof, talk through basic expectations for safety. One of the toughest parts of parenting young adults is knowing you really can’t enforce rules like you use to when you knew every detail of their schedule.
Decide on your bare minimum for safety and communicate it succinctly before spring break begins. Our kids know we will be contacting highway patrol if we don’t know where they are sleeping and that they are alive every 24 hours. They also know I won’t be cooking them dinner, unless they let me know they (and friends) will be dining with us.
Discuss finances and planning
Spring break is a great “mini lesson” in vacation planning for your young adult. Encourage them to share their budget for food, lodging plans and any “extras” they are planning. Keep in mind they are making themselves very vulnerable and resist the urge to gasp in disapproval or guffaw in amusement. We were young once.
After talking through our kids’ plans with them, my husband and I were quite impressed at the creative ways they had come up with to have fun on the cheap. Whether or not they seem like it, our young adults crave our approval as they spread their wings.
Encourage yourself- and them!
Spring is a sign of renewal. Remember that and be encouraged that both you and your collegiate have made it down a bumpy road to this point in the year. The end is in sight and you both deserve a pat on the back.
With these four simple guidelines in mind, your fears of reconnecting with your college kid will give way to anticipation. Armed with a plan, you’ll be toasting your kids with a fruity drink of your choosing and enter spring break ready to celebrate!