Monday, Nov. 29, 2010
COLLEGE STUDENT BACK IN THE NEST FOR HOLIDAYS? FAMILY STUDIES EXPERTS OFFER PARENTS COPING TIPS
MANHATTAN -- When a student leaves for college it's not unusual for new family routines to be established and family roles readjusted.
That's why many parents struggle when their college students re-enter the family dynamic over the holidays, according to experts from Kansas State University. The student's return can cause disruptions in day-to-day interactions, and cause conflict between parent and student.
"Tensions are higher, so it's not uncommon for families to have increased arguments during a college student's visit home," said Kelly Welch, assistant professor of family studies and human services at K-State.
It's very important for students and their families to have realistic expectations for one another and to cut each other some slack, Welch said.
"It's also important that expectations are clear and that there is communication," said Tim Rarick, K-State instructor of family studies and human services. "It will help the visit be more successful and alleviate a lot of problems. Parents need to respect that their college student is becoming independent and has taken on new attitudes and behaviors. It might be hard for some parents to do."
To help with the adjustment, both students and parents need to communicate in a fun and relaxed way, Welch said.
"The key is to talk about nonserious issues," she said. "This shows parents that their college student is an emerging adult who handles and accepts responsibilities. It shows students that their parents are at least trying to cut the 300-mile-long Teflon umbilical cord."
Rarick said that students tend to feel entitled to their parents' home. He said students need to be understanding and show respect. "Encourage your student to be a considerate guest. He or she should be able to relax at home but keep in mind that they are not staying at a hotel with a maid," he said.
Here are some tips from Rarick and Welch on how parents can cope with their college students over the holidays:
* Have realistic expectations. If expectations are clear ahead of time then conflict is less likely.
* Be respectful. Keep the criticisms to yourself because they won't change the situation and will cause conflict.
* Use humor. A little laugh goes a long way.
* Talk often. A hectic, chaotic lifestyle supports hectic, chaotic relationships. Slow down and talk to each other.
* Listen actively. This means listening beyond the words by listening to the emotions behind the words.