The fridge is empty, the downstairs shower turns on at 2:00 am, there is a strange load of laundry piled in the laundry room, there is a pile of pop/booze cans/bottles in the trash; your college student must be home due to the coronavirus. Realize that there is a real loss for them here. College aged students are on the verge of true adulthood. They have been setting their own guidelines and following their own rules, now they are sent back to your house to continue their education on-line. Just like their younger siblings they are struggling with their displacement from housing, alienation from friends and a change in their schedule. Try and be sympathetic, but don’t feel like you must live in a 2020 version of “Animal House”. Here are some guidelines I think might be helpful:
· Be clear about house rules: College kids have been living by their own rules for months now and to suddenly be thrust back into their parent’s orbit is a difficult transition. House rules should be reflective of something like college, but you shouldn’t have your house turned into the Frat/Sorority house. Bedtimes are of no benefit, unless you are calling them at school every night to tuck them in. However, it might be prudent to establish “quiet hours” when they may be awake, but the rest of the house might be asleep. It is not an unrealistic expectation to have your college student help with their younger siblings, do some yard/housework, or run some errands, especially if you are both essential workers.
· Give your college student space and privacy: It is not realistic to expect your college kid to submit to room inspections like you may do with their younger siblings. If the door is shut it should remain shut, that said, laundry needs to be done and taken care of like they would at school.
· Adjust to college time: It is not unusual for college students to sleep in and stay up late studying. If this is their normal routine, and it follows house rules, the college student’s schedule should be accepted.
· Encourage getting outside: Exercise is good for all of us, especially during stressful or uncertain times.
· Encourage getting enough sleep: Young adults can tolerate periods of little or no sleep for periods of time but eventually they need to pay the piper.
· Watch for signs of depression and/or anxiety: These are strange days and it is easy to get overwhelmed quickly. Watch for day drinking, binge drinking, changes in mood or behavior that concern you. Discuss how their day went but approach it as you would ask a friend or neighbor, not how you would address your middle schooler.
· Have them cook a meal: College students don’t only eat mac and cheese and ramen noodles. Often, they must cook for roommates or acquaintances. They often get very adept at cooking certain meals, sometimes meals that are not traditional. This can be a learning experience for the entire family
· Work in some of their normal schedule: If Saturdays are poker nights or D&D nights, work that into your schedule. It brings a sense of normalcy to your student and gives you a window into their world.
I hope this helps. We are all in this together, be sane and be safe.