There’s No Place Like Home! Or Is There?
Before you know it, your student may be returning home for the holidays.
By this time, we would expect you have seen your college student return home at least one other time this semester. Some UWM students frequent their homes more often, and others choose only to go home at winter break to celebrate holidays. A quick stay, like a weekend, is always easier to navigate.
In University Housing, especially Residence Life, we know there are some “growing pains” that occur when you inherit your student for more than a few days stay. Here are some quick tips for surviving an extended visit with your returning first-year student.
Expect some disruption to your home life
UWM residence hall resident hours probably will not coincide with your family hours or routines. Your college student could be used to a completely different schedule. S/he could eat, sleep, and come/go as they pleased over the course of the last 11 weeks. It is okay to negotiate a compromise and set some limits and boundaries. You probably cannot expect the college student to change their routine overnight, but you should also not expect to be awoken in the night repeatedly by your son or daughter (or their college or hometown friends) up late.
Don’t overreact if your student has made changes to his/her appearance
Some UWM first-year students like to test their independence and who they are (identity), especially as they are “out on their own” during the first semester of college. They are testing limits, boundaries, and maybe even your reaction to change. As long as he/she isn’t doing illegal activities or things that go against your family values, give him/her some space to find his/her way.
Sleeping a lot is normal, and probably is about recharging
The last couple of weeks for a traditional first-year college student is a whirlwind. Even the most disciplined manager of time can feel overwhelmed during finals week. Your college student may need some well-deserved sleep they may have given up to feel confident in their academic performance on final exams. Additionally, your college student may need some downtime before they socialize with the family, friends, or relatives during the holidays.
Be prepared for a possible significant other
Ah, to be young and “in love.” During the first semester at UWM, your college student may meet someone special to them. Sometimes this lasts, and other times this relationship is more temporary. Be prepared to navigate your college students newfound companion. Your college student may want this individual to visit (and maybe even share their room overnight). Don’t overreact if this conversation comes up. Know that it’s okay to say “no.” Their college roommate probably didn’t always allow them to have someone stay over whenever your college student wanted. Be prepared to engaged in a dialogue. We hope your college student is probably more prepared to have a discussion than s/he was in high school. Let them be responsible for convincing you.
The first conversation should not be about grades. Let them bring it up
It may sound ridiculous, but your college student may not have any idea how they did in any or all of their first-term classes until the final grade is posted online in PAWS. Because of this, the topic of grades may be a strong area of confusion, stress and anxiety. Some college students have a harder time adjusting to collegiate academic standards than others. Some college students don’t feel challenged and do abnormally well. Give your student some space and let them bring up academic performance first. If they haven’t brought it up before it’s almost time to return, then it’s completely appropriate to broach the topic.
Avoid the interrogation about your college student’s “social life”
Your college student may also not want share everything about their college experience with you. As a newly independent “adult,” they may want to keep some of their new life separate and private. This may include not wanting discuss all the details about friends, hobbies, clubs or schedules. This is mostly okay, and is probably not meant to offend you. Just like you do not share all of the details of your adult life with your child, they are figuring out what parts of their new independent life is important to share with you. It is appropriate to allow your college student to have new boundaries in collegiate life.
As a side note, it is probably okay to talk with your college student about having to make tough decisions in college. Depending on your college student’s level of comfort, they may share with you some tough personal decisions they experienced at college. They may have experienced different kinds of peer pressure or having to make tough decisions with consequences without your guidance at college. It’s okay to bring this up, but winter break may not be the time to push too hard in this area. They are only halfway through their first year, and may not be ready to open up just yet. A solid check-in with your college student is okay, but resist the urge to interrogate your college student about all of their collegiate choices.
Every college student experience is unique and different!
UWM is a college of almost 30,000 students with rich diversity of experiences, heritages and family circumstances. Therefore, it is sometimes difficult to generalize what you will experience as a parent. These lists and suggestions are made possible because of past experiences of other UWM students and parents. Know that your college student is going to have a unique transition back to your particular home environment. As a parent, we suggest you provide early support by giving your student time and space to adjust and adapt back to your environment. It’s okay to inquire about your student’s experience, but also remember to respect their new found independence, need re-negotiated boundaries, and new understanding of their identity or values.