What To Expect When Your Kids Come Home From College

There’s nothing quite like the joy of having your kids back home after their time away at college! As a parent, you’ve likely been counting down the days until their return, imagining all the quality time and shared experiences you’ll have together. As you both evolve as humans, so does your relationship. It can feel clunky to navigate these changes when you live apart, but some minor shifts can keep your parent-child relationships going strong. 

To make the most of this precious time, it’s essential to be prepared for the changes and challenges that may arise during their homecoming. Let’s explore the exciting opportunities you’ll have, discuss what to expect when your kids come home from college, and share tips about how to make the most of the time you have together.

Fun Things to Do

1. Plan Family Activities

Have something to look forward to by planning some exciting family activities before your kids come home. Whether it’s a weekend getaway, a day at the local amusement park, or a simple family game night, these shared experiences will create lasting memories. Get input from your kids on what they’d like to do to ensure everyone is on board with the plans.

2. Cook Together

Your child is probably tired of dining hall dinners… they want a fresh, family-made meal! One of the best ways to reconnect is through food. Plan a family cooking night where everyone pitches in to create a delicious meal. This could be your child’s favorite homecooked meal or a local cuisine that only tastes right when it’s made at home.

“Every year, my family does a Christmas cookie baking day. When Chris gets home from Montana State, we’ll be continuing that tradition with my mom, sister, and son. I can’t wait to catch up with him durning this time!” – Niki T. Mother of First Year Freshman.

This provides an opportunity to bond and also allows your college kids to showcase any newfound culinary skills they’ve acquired or practice any of the recipes they’ve learned.

3. Outdoor Adventures

Depending on the season, explore outdoor games or activities together. Whether it’s hiking, biking, or simply taking a stroll in the park, being in nature can be both refreshing and a great way to catch up on each other’s lives.

4. Movie or Game Nights

Create a cozy atmosphere at home by hosting movie or game nights. Let your kids choose their favorite movies or games, and enjoy some quality downtime together. This is a fantastic way to relax and share laughs while enjoying each other’s company.

What to Expect

1. Changed Dynamics

Understand that your relationship with your college kids may have evolved during their time away. They are in a new phase of self-discovery, and their interests or preferences may be different than you remember. They’ve likely gained independence, developed new perspectives, and formed relationships that have shaped them. Embrace these changes and allow them the space to share their experiences.

2. Adjustment Period

Be prepared for an adjustment period as everyone settles back into the routines of living together. College life comes with its own set of habits, and it may take some time for everyone to find their groove. Patience and open communication are key during this transition.

Caren Osten, a positive psychology life coach, writes that during this adjustment period, some things you can do to help are to remind your kid it’s their home too; they aren’t a guest. Additionally, give them time to settle back in.

3. Busy Schedules

Your kids may have a list of friends, significant others, and favorite local spots they want to visit during their stay. While we’re sure you want to see them as much as possible, you’ll likely have to share your favorite student this season.

Be flexible and understanding about their commitments outside the home and find a balance between planned family activities and their desire to reconnect with friends.

4. Sharing Responsibilities

College life often involves handling responsibilities independently. When your kids return home, encourage them to share in the household chores and responsibilities. This helps them readjust and foster a sense of teamwork and shared responsibility. As much as they may want you to, you can’t clean up after them forever!

Make the Most of Your Time Together

1. Open Communication

Keep the lines of communication open. Discuss expectations, plans, and any concerns openly and honestly. This will help avoid misunderstandings and ensure that everyone is on the same page. Open communication keeps your expectations clear and lets them know that you see them as more of an adult. This kind of communication can also model problem-solving skills for them, which is helpful no matter what career field they will enter after their studies. 

2. Create a Balance

While it’s essential to plan activities and spend quality time together, also recognize the importance of personal space and downtime. As much as they enjoy spending time with you, having someone in their space constantly can feel overwhelming, just as not having enough time with you can feel like they aren’t a priority. Respect their boundaries and decide on plans ahead of time. Balancing structured family time with opportunities for individual relaxation is key to a harmonious homecoming.

3. Celebrate Achievements

Take the time to celebrate your kids’ achievements and milestones from their time at college. Whether it’s academic accomplishments, personal growth, or new friendships, acknowledging and celebrating these moments will make them feel appreciated. They may not have anyone at college who gives them praise for these things, or they may not have people showing them how far they have come in such a short amount of time. 

4. Capture the Moments

Cherish the moments you have together by capturing them through photos or journaling. Create a scrapbook or a digital album to document the highlights of having them at home. This tangible reminder will serve as a keepsake for both you and your college kids… and maybe one day, your grandkids! 

5. Tend to your Relationships

An almost 80-year-old Harvard study has shown that even more than taking care of your physical health, nurturing your relationships is an important form of self-care that is so important to have a happy life. So use the holiday season to nurture your relationships with your kids home from college, your favorite friends, and your family members.

As your kids come home from college, embrace the changes, be present in the fun activities, and savor the moments spent together. The homecoming period is a unique opportunity to strengthen your family bonds, learn more about each other, and create a foundation for continued connection. By approaching this time with positivity, open communication, and a spirit of adventure, you’ll create memories that will last a lifetime. Enjoy every moment of having your kids back home, and make the most of this special time for your family.

Are you looking for more insight about being a parent of a college student? Our catalog of tips, tools, and advice can help you navigate this time in life!