Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Navigating an Unexpected Homecoming

                        -Stephanie Burley

For the last couple of years, nothing has been as exciting as planning for the days when our kids could be home from college. Buying a plane ticket is the easiest purchase we make!  Their arrival is highly anticipated, and we maximize every moment we can be together. 

But this time, things are different.  No one wanted this.  No one asked for it. The global pandemic we are currently experiencing finds many of us with a full house as our college students make their way back from closed residence halls. Our hearts ache for our kids as we process the news that they won’t be able to complete the year on campus with all the accompanying activities and opportunities for which they had hoped and planned.

So how can we carefully balance our role as parents to “grown” children while welcoming them back and helping them through this time of transition and possible frustration and even grief?  Consider the following:

  • Set realistic expectations. It may take a few days or even a few weeks to develop a comfortable rhythm.  We should give ourselves much grace during these trying times. Take a deep breath and remember that we are not alone. There are millions of others who are facing new challenges right now and God will walk with us on this new and sometimes difficult path. We should encourage the same for our college kids.  

  • Create reasonable boundaries. Our young adult children need to know that we love them, but they also need to understand that one or both parents, as well as younger siblings, still have work and school schedules, maybe more rigorous than theirs. As an example, staying up half the night may work in the dorm, but it may not promote a healthy transition back into family life. We must function as a unit in order to have a pleasant, happy home, and that likely will mean them relinquishing some of their freedoms. It is in these times that a respectful approach will be of great value.

  • Communicate with mutual respect. As parents, we expect our children to show respect for us and our home.  It’s important that we also communicate respect to our children, no matter their age. Our responses to their behaviors and attitudes say more about us than about them. Our kids need to see Jesus in us, now more than ever!

  • Watch for subtle changes.  Many of our college kids are grieving. They have experienced great losses this semester. If we notice sadness or anger, hopelessness or aimlessness, boredom or anxiety, we shouldn’t ignore those emotions. This is our opportunity to parent them uniquely during one of the most crucial times in their lives.

  • Encourage alternative experiences. Long-anticipated events have been erased from the calendar, but that doesn’t mean life can’t be enjoyed.  In fact, this can be a season of discovery as we are forced to be creative and flexible. Cooking/baking/grilling, photography, music, art, online enrichment classes, games, biking, hiking, nature hunting, and on and on the list could go of activities that we sometimes just can’t find the time to do.  Now may be the perfect opportunity to engage in a few of these as a family. Documenting with journals and pictures will capture the memories for them to share as this story is handed down to their children and grandchildren.

  • Capture the atmosphere.  Home is the safe place. Home eases the pain. Home allows healing. Home keeps us grounded. Moms, we have the opportunity to create this place for our kids who need this so desperately right now.  We can listen without interrupting. We can be present without hovering. And we can make our homes a haven from this storm.  

As we consider the time we’re spending as families, social distancing from the rest of the world, let’s be intentional about making the best of this unexpected opportunity with our most valuable possessions. We’re given this moment. This unplanned, inconvenient, and painfully beautiful moment. It’s in our hands today.

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