Your College Graduate is Moving Home...
The last time we spoke I talked about walking alongside your kids as they graduate from High school. This week I would like to chat about another time that can bring challenges to women and their families, the time that a son or daughter graduates from college and returns home.
Think back on your life…do you remember this time? I have memories of feeling very disoriented while I was trying to figure out what came next. This feeling of disorientation can be a very real state for young adults as they leave their 16-20 year “career” of schooling and move into the world as an adult. All of us have many messages from our families, schools, church, friends and the media about what it means to be an adult. This often translates to a lot of “shoulds” such as “I should have a job that has a fast track to financial success” and “I should love my new career” and “I should be living on my own with a fantastic social life, and doing lots of super fun things, and working hard at a job I love” or “I should be in a great relationship with a person who is good looking, successful and really fun”….and the “shoulds” go on and on and on.
The problem with “shoulding” on yourself is that you are often setting yourself up to feel like a failure. “Shoulds” are someone else’s idea of what you “should” do. True adulting is determining what is true for you.
The question is how can you support your young adult son or daughter as they are moving from schooling to working? I have a few ideas that might be helpful.
First, awareness is power. Make them aware of this change as a time of transition. Everything in their world may have changed. If they were living at college their old life is very different than the one they have now as they move back into the family home. They were living with friends, they had a lot of freedom, and their social life was easily accessible. Now they may be living with their family, their freedom feels impacted because they are back at home and all their college friends have scattered. They are no longer a student, and they either have a new job or are in the job hunting market. They are feeling disoriented because they have experienced many big changes in a very short period. Everything they have known as “their life” has just been upended and they are trying to find the firm footing of their ground again. Making them aware of this bigger picture helps them to see that there is a good reason for how they are feeling.
It is also important to be aware that your relationship with your son or daughter is changing from one between parent and child to a relationship between adults. Like every other change your child has gone thru this can feel like walking a tightrope as you discern when they are asking to be treated like a child and when they are asking to be treated like an adult. This is one of those key times when humor is so necessary and helpful. What can be different is that you can now share some of that humor with your young adult and include them in this view of the process of seeing what is happening from “the adult side”.
This changing relationship with your son or daughter can bring up a lot of emotions for you as a woman entering a new phase in life. As you see your image of yourself as Mother changing to a new image of an empty nest mother many feelings may arise. Viewing this change as an opportunity, as an invitation, to creatively build this next phase in your life can help you to focus on more than what you are saying good-bye to. Instead of seeing only what you are leaving behind you can also focus on what you are saying hello to.
There are other considerations you should think about and discuss with your spouse or parenting partner before your son or daughter moves back home:
· What are your requirements for your son and daughter when they move back home?
o What do you expect as far as communication about when they will be home?
o How are they going to contribute to the family?
§ Do they have responsibilities around the house?
§ Do they pay rent or purchase groceries?
§ Do they do their own laundry?
o What are you willing to contribute towards their living expenses?
§ Food, clothing, gas, insurance, healthcare, entertainment, vacations
· How long can they live at home?
o What are your expectations as far as working?
o If they have a job what do you expect as far as their preparation for moving out?
o If they are looking for a job what do you expect them to be doing each day and week as far as their job hunt is concerned?
· What are the family rules and requirements that honor you as parents and the family unit?
o It is important to set boundaries that establish your home as your safe space.
o What do you need to feel relaxed and comfortable in your own home?
If there is one word that defines this time it is communication. While some of these topics can be challenging to discuss, the good news is that you are now dealing with a young adult who has greater powers of reasoning and understanding. You can converse at a more adult level, hopefully. And if that is a challenge then you now have an opportunity to help your son or daughter develop relationship communication skills that will be invaluable throughout their life. If you feel that your communication skills are challenged by this, then take the opportunity to develop stronger communication skills for yourself. You will see the benefit in every arena of your life.
Finally, as I said in my last post, humor helps so much. Creating a team with your spouse or parenting partner is invaluable. And take a breath. There is so much opportunity available in this transition. Breath through the challenge and embrace the opportunity to help your child create their vision of a life they want to live.
If you are finding yourself challenged as you travel this journey of parenting transition I am here to act as a mentor and guide. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.