When Kids go back to college :: How to weather the transition

Summer Break

I have a summer break hangover.You know that feeling when you are hungover after a fun night out? You’re in a world of hurt, but the sweet memories make it all worthwhile. That’s how I’m feeling today: exhausted and overwhelmed in the wake of having my kids come home to roost this summer.

It’s been a busy summer. My two college-age sons came home with all of their belongings (see photo). One daughter moved back after college graduation; then I helped her move from Dallas to Austin where she’ll begin her first grown-up job. I co-hosted two baby showers for my oldest daughter who’s expecting which involved her and her husband and dog staying with me too. I sent one son off to study for a semester in India. The grand finale was accompanying my youngest son on a 12-hour drive to Denver to help him move into his dorm (#stressful). And I still had to work. It’s been a never-ending blur of laundry, cooking, monitoring, packing, and planning.

Yes, I’m ranting, but I also feel the abundant joy that blew in with the chaos. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to connect with my kids and their friends, to hear about their college shenanigans and to share in the excited anticipation of a new baby, new homes, and new jobs. My kids filled the house not only with their stuff but also a refreshing youthful energy.

I lie down at night wondering how I ever did this full-time. Am I getting old? Parenting never ends; the job description quietly evolves.  As with most things in life- when you have to, you just do it. I suppose that we have all adjusted to a new normal. It didn’t take long for me to embrace the freedom of an “empty nest” or for my kids to revel in their newfound independence. Summer break forced an abrupt recalibration. Change is hard. And as quickly as they landed, they were gone.

Here are some tips to help you weather a summer hangover (or any challenging transition)

  1. Give yourself some lovin’. Sleep, eat what you want to eat, take a hot bath in solitude, watch TV shows that you want to watch. And turn off your phone- remember if your kids are old enough to live on their own, they can manage daily dilemmas without your help. Ease back into your normal routine.
  2. Set gentle goals. Let go of perfectionism and allow yourself some time to get your house back in order. You may be looking at a mess that took a few months to accumulate (see above photo.)  It’s unrealistic to expect it to be cleaned up in a day. Big goals are less overwhelming is you break them down into smaller chunks.
  3. Practice gratitude. It’s easy to focus on the negative when facing a big “mess” or adjusting to change. Reflect on the good stuff that fills your heart with joy. Focusing on what you’re grateful for will improve your mood and make the transition easier.

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4 thoughts on “When Kids go back to college :: How to weather the transition

  1. I love this post Paula. Especially the part about if they are old enough to live on their own, they can handle their own dilemmas!
    XO, Lisa

  2. When adult children come home in between semesters, during transitions, or for milestone events, besides bringing all their stuff, they also bring their energy with them. Even if it’s all positive, the energy is theirs, not yours, and it definitely takes up space in our brains! I find that gentle goal-setting, as you suggest, is an absolute necessity for survival, even as it is tough to implement. Oh my, I have a new appreciation for my patient parents! Who knew!

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