From Dr. Jane's Notebook

Home From College: Hello. . . Good-bye!

There is a developmental stage in the family life cycle which has only recently come to my attention. Here it is: When the kids go off to college, we get used to having an emptier nest and they get used to flying further away from us. When they come home to visit, we make lots of room again in our nest, but college kids don’t like to stay still. They come, they go, our nest gets bigger, then smaller, then bigger, then smaller. While all of this coming and going is normal healthy behavior which demonstrates our child’s growing independence, all the back and forth can sometimes twist a parent’s umbilical cord and result in all kinds of unhealthy relationships.

I am developing a new sense of humility about spring break and other visits home by children who have moved out. Each of these visits serves as a building block in our new parent-child relationship. Here are a few more thoughts on the subject.

Wise parents practice the fine art of listening without giving their own opinion or critique. When kids are talking, they are not necessarily in the mood to listen to you. Rather than trying to influence your children on the smaller issues, I recommend that you save up your ability to influence your children for the real big decisions they will face in life.

Even though college kids on school break are generally on the move, it is possible to see more of your child if you set up certain attractors and strive to make your home "visitor friendly". Begin this process by welcoming their friends, feeding their friends, and learning to like their new friends. College, and moving away from home, represents the beginning of your child’s new and independent life. As parents, we want to be there and provide support, but we must also allow our children to test out their wings on their own. Throughout life, we will get to know our sons and our daughters many times over again, as both we and they mature. At this juncture, our children are becoming adults. As our lifelong friends, we must give them room to grow.

ęCopyright, 1998, 1999, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.

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Last Updated February 27, 1999 by Gary M. Grandon, Ph.D.