Quarantine: Making the Adjustment With Your College Student

We’re in an adjustment period.

Most of us are almost three weeks into this virus-induced quarantine. I am sure I am not alone in welcoming my college sons back into the nest while also praying fervently that this thing ends so they can return to school in the fall. Figuring out how to live peacefully while confined is a very small burden compared to those who are sick or struggling for their lives. But it is a challenge nonetheless.

I am adjusting to tripping over weights in the living room and waking up to the smell of sizzling bacon around midnight. Not to mention the differences in sleep patterns. My sons are nocturnal. My husband and I are early to bed and early to rise.

On the up side, we are eating dinner together almost every night, and I am really enjoying that. What I am NOT enjoying is the return to wrestling between the brothers and the fear that all the patching and painting we did when they left for school will be undone. I fear it is only a matter of time before someone’s head makes a dent in one of the walls.

It is definitely a work in progress at our house, and we are far from perfect. But here are few things I am trying to apply:

First, avoid using this time to lecture your children about their study habits, sleep schedules (or lack thereof), or any other area of their lives in which you think improvement is needed. In his book Doing Life with Your Adult Children: Keep Your Mouth Shut and the Welcome Mat Out, author Jim Burns cautions that unsolicited advice is usually taken as criticism. Having the kids home seems like the perfect opportunity to share with them some of our hard-won experience right? But I’m learning to wait to be asked for my input and have found that my thoughts are better received when they are requested. We know that experience is the best teacher, and we have to be willing to let life teach our children what they need to learn.

Second, practice mutual respect. In his book Failure to Launch, author Mark McConville describes our role in the lives of our young adults as a “consultant who is available as needed” as opposed to a “supervisor who runs the show.” As such, practice speaking to them in a way that assumes good will on their part and demonstrates respect for their individual dignity.

Third, remember this is an adjustment for them as well. It cannot be easy to go from total freedom to being told to take out the garbage and quit leaving your stuff lying around. It is perfectly appropriate to expect them to help around the house but try to extend grace when they don’t respond the first time they are asked.

Finally, remember that anxiety and depression often manifest as irritability or angry outbursts. Possibly, your young adult is as anxious as you are about his future. Even young adults need to hear that things are going to be OK, that you have confidence in their abilities to handle whatever comes, and that your home will be a safe and secure place for them to land no matter what happens.

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