“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.“ Proverbs 22:6 ESV (Well, he probably will depart from it – and you – for a while, but don’t despair, there is hope.)
It’s been nine months since you dropped your kiddo off at college. Maybe it was the first dropoff, maybe the last. Either way, there have probably been months of missed connections, sporadic phone calls and growth for both of you.
They’ve been months of missing him, months of prayers and, hopefully, months of learning to enjoy your newfound freedom.
Now, it’s summer. Your college kid is home!
Wait, what is that weird facial hair he’s got going on? Is she wearing clothes I didn’t help her pick out? When did he start sleeping til noon – I thought he’d have a job lined up by now!
Who is this stranger walking around in my kid’s body?!
Sound familiar? Well, don’t lose hope. Here are some ways you can reconnect with this almost-adult child of yours in the few short months of summer break.
BE ‘THOSE’ PARENTS
I remember coming home from college every summer and having a revolving door of friends in and out of the house for day trips, sleep overs and week long visits. I was so thankful that my folks were open to meeting my friends and making them a part of the family. Now, 30 years later, my friends still have great memories to share about those summer visits. Be those parents.
PLAN FAMILY TIME
It is totally reasonable to want to spend some family time together. Planned time together can be helpful in creating a firm foundation for your child when she leaves again at the end of break. While family interactions necessarily shift from parent/child to adult/young adult, family time is a great way to welcome your child back into the family system while practiciing this new style of relating and connecting.
- Schedule a game night.
- Plan a movie night, popcorn and Junior Mints included.
- Go to the county fair and rodeo.
- Continue your regular weekly cookouts.
- Camp out in the back yard.
CREATE RITUALS AND TRADITIONS
Your child’s first summer home from college is the perfect time to create new traditions that can last throughout the college years and into adulthood. Consider establishing a monthly one-on-one date night. My son and I always had a tradition of going to the drive-in movie theater once a month. We would pack the car with our favorite snacks and a cooler full of pop and would hunker down for some great pre-movie conversation and late night snacking. In later years, he would bring his future wife along and we would all squeeze into the car for a night of fun – it was great. Wow, I hadn’t realized how much I missed that. He’s 30 now, but it might be time for a trip to Mesa Drive-In!
EAT DINNER TOGETHER (SOMETIMES)
Life is busy and you’ve grown accustomed to dinners out with your hubby, but now the kids are home. It may feel like a bother to schedule home cooked meals again, but sitting down at the dinner table has always been touted as a great way to connect as a family. Let the family know that you’d like to schedule one or two sit-down meals per week and stick with it. It doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated….just be together.
TAKE A ROAD TRIP
I’ve always held to the tenant that promotes communication better than being stuck in a car together. Now, this will entail setting some boundaries on technology, but it can be great. Whether it’s for overnight, a weekend, or a several days, sit down with your kiddo and plan a trip together and get driving (and connecting). One of the best trips I ever took with my son was a trip with no destination. We planned a budget and got in the car and drove – we stayed the night wherever we landed and did whatever looked fun. Our trip included whitewater rafting, hiking in the beautiful Rocky Mountains and watching football in a hotel room surrounded by our favorite snacks and lots of laughter.
LET THEM LEAD
It may be that your child’s interests have shiften in the months she’s been gone. Let her suggest activities you can do together. Give her opportunities to introduce you to her newfound passions and hobbies. Let her show off her new sense of style and design. Be flexible and let your kid take the lead when planning activities and you just might uncover a new level of understanding of who he is.
There is no connection without listening – listen to what he says and what he doesn’t say. We live in an ever more complicated world and your son or daugher is having to learn to navigate it with and without you. Your response to the things he shares will determine whether or not you are the person he comes to with his future struggles. I know it’s hard, but try to listen without judging, advice-giving or correction. Just listen and love on him and simply ask, “what do you need from me?”
LOVE ON THEM
No matter how old your kids get, they’re never too old to hear the words, “I love you. I’m proud of you. I like the person you’re becoming.”
First, say it with words. Then, say it with the sparkle in your eyes. Be sure to say it when they overcome a struggle. Even say it when they finally put their dishes in the dishwasher.
Don’t get me wrong, we’re not trying to create little princes and princesses who can never do any wrong – that would be a disservice to everyone. I just mean, let them know they are OK and they’re going to be OK and they are loved in all their young-adult messiness. It will do their hearts good – and yours.
Just remember, even if your child returned home a stranger – with some time, intention, and lots of love and patience and prayer – you can reconnect on a new, often deeper, level than you had before. Summer break is a time for laying the foundation for your future adult/adult relationship. Enjoy this in-between time. It, like all the other seasons of motherhood, will pass all too quickly.
Go get ’em.