Home for College Break. I counted down the hours and periodically checked the location app to see where my daughter, Rebekah, was on her 6.5 hour trek home from college. Who thought this was a good idea to let her go to a university so far away, and then allow her to drive by herself? Honestly, it made me so nervous. But here we were and she was living her dream at a campus she adored.
Anticipation filled my heart. Every few hours she would check in by phone and I couldn’t wait to hug her. She bounded up the back stairs with a huge grin on her face and I swept her into a big ‘ole embrace. My baby was home and all felt right with the world. I helped her haul in her laundry basket, a suitcase full of shoes, and her textbook loaded backpack. We plopped down at the island and off she went, telling me all about her college adventures.
Like most moms we are anticipating the return of our college students for fall or holiday breaks. We can’t wait to see our child’s sweet face and hang on their every word. We’ve likely made a list of their favorite foods and we dream of lots of time together. Expectation can get the best of us, if we’re not careful.
Expectations are ripe with selfishness. Moms have a certain view of how events should unfold and when they don’t, it causes crushing disappointment. Paul, in his letter to the church in Ephesus offers a cautionary truth that will help a mom full of expectations navigate this reunion in a healthy way:
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” – Ephesians 4:2
The homecoming doesn’t have to go the way you think it should. When you adopt an attitude of humility, gentleness, and patience, you will enjoy your visit more.
3 Ways to Navigate Your Reunion Well
1. Your child will be different: Don’t expect the same child to walk into your home. They have fresh experiences away at college. They’ve heard new concepts and have met different kinds of people. They have a level of independence that you’re probably not used to yet. They come and go as they please at college, not checking in with anyone. Change is normal for college students. It’s all part of the growth process. When we accept it, we’ll have more peace in our relationship.
2. Set aside expectations of how they spend their time: You likely anticipate family dinners, shopping trips, long conversations, and returning to your old routine with your child. When your offspring has different plans from yours, you might feel crushed and abandoned. Instead, set aside your expectations and have a conversation. Simply say, “Tell me about your plans while you’re home. I don’t want to keep you from doing what you want.” This communicates respect and paves the way for there to be no offense. Then take the time you have together and enjoy it.
3. Listen more than you talk. Your child may have conflicting feelings about college. Some freshmen soar through and adapt quickly, while others flounder trying to find their way. Instead of rushing in to fix or solve her problems, be an empathetic listener. Honor your child’s feelings by saying, “Thank you for sharing that.” Listen for understanding and only offer advice if they ask. Oftentimes they just need you to be a neutral sounding board so they can figure things out on their own. If your child prefers to be quiet about college life, do your best to respect that, too. Reaffirm your love for them at the end of each conversation.
You may have endless expectations about how a college break should go with your adult child, and most of these will leave you feeling frustrated and disappointed.
Instead, we maintain a humble attitude and dish out oodles of patience. We accept the changes we see, set aside assumptions about how your child will spend their time, and are empathetic listeners. This will help us experience harmony as we connect with our adult children.