How to Deal with a Returning College Student

My son’s back home for the summer, which means renegotiating some family rules and dynamics

by Julie Shifman • Next Avenue
students traveling home image
Photograph: Shutterstock

My 19-year-old-son, Ari, just arrived back home for the summer after a good freshman year at Tulane University. When he last lived with us, it was with all his high school–era restrictions. But now that he’s been on his own for a year, he expects to come home and be as independent as he was at college.

I’ve been down this road before with his three older brothers, but this time it’s different: When Ari left, the nest was emptied. My husband and I have grown to like our freedom, and I have to say, I’m not eager to return to full-time motherhood duties.
Before he got home, I spent a lot of time thinking about how to make our summer living arrangement workable, acceptable and — dare I hope? — pleasurable. I knew it would have to start with a three-way negotiation: between Ari, his father and me. I figured I'd be the one imposing all the restrictions, but in the process, I realized something that surprised me: It’s not Ari who would have to do all the compromising.

How to Negotiate with a Returning College Student: I started my planning the way I start any project: I made a list. I wrote down literally everything that I could imagine becoming a problem or annoyance. Nothing was too small to consider. Case in point: Taking the last cold Diet Dr. Pepper from the fridge without restocking the supply (something my darling son did his first night home).
This may seem trivial to 99.99 percent of humanity, but to me, I’m slightly embarrassed to admit, it’s huge. So to the list I added, “Always replace what you drink.” Then it dawned on me: I needed to keep more than one soda in the fridge at a time because I wouldn’t be the only one drinking it this summer.

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