This is an awkward time! Everything your college-aged child has known for the last few months—or maybe even years—has been flipped on its head. The structure of classes and buildings…GONE. The dorms and apartments full of friends and peers…GONE. The tempo of daily routines and rhythms…GONE. And what may be the most jarring for them at the moment, the freedom to come and go as they please…GONE!
Moving back home between semesters, or for the summer, is hard enough for most, but to move back home without closure of a real end to a semester and for an open-ended amount of time has many of them way out of sorts. Then, add on top of that the social distancing and suggested lockdowns that most are under, and this is certainly an unprecedented time.
One of the most alarming things I have seen in twenty years of working with young people is the staggering rise in anxiety and depression. This rise combined with the rapid readjustment of their lives (and the isolation many of them are experiencing) has really burdened my heart this week.
Here’s how I think you can help them through this unique season:
1. Simply acknowledging to them that these rapid changes must be hard on them. Their world changed in a heartbeat, and that is hard on anyone—especially those in the most formative time in their lives.
2. Understand that they are different than when they left home to go to school. The amount of time they have lived with increased independence and authority has changed them. They are different people! Take some time to get to know the new person who is back under your roof.
3. Give them a little extra space, but don’t allow them to isolate. In this season of turmoil, isolation can be a dangerous thing for us all.
4. Keep lines of communication open. This may sound odd, but good dialogue is essential. Expecting and demanding can often shut down good communication, and right now they need good dialogue with family and friends. Consider grabbing some coffee (to-go, of course) to talk with them about how they feel about things.
5. Consider adjusting the previous rules and expectations you had for them before they left for college. Remember, they are different people than the teenagers who used to live there, so consider adjusting the old ways. I am not saying abandon rules and expectations but to consider ways to adjust them accordingly.
6. Reaffirm your love for them. Maybe this sounds a little silly (because your love for them will never change), but they may be more open to a loving embrace than they were when they were a “rebellious teenager.” They are obviously a more captive audience now than they were even a few weeks ago. Find new ways to spend time together and demonstrate love in new ways.
7. Finally, remember what it was like for you as you journeyed the transition to adulthood. That tension was hard for us all to feel like adults yet live under the authority of your parents’ roof and rules. Take some time to remember how that time impacted you and consider even sharing some of your journey with them.
I hope these simple thoughts can help you walk alongside your college-aged child during this awkward season for us all! If you need help thinking through or talking through your relationship with your child, consider reaching out to their college campus minister or college pastor. I know I would certainly love to help you in any way I can.
JARED GREGORY is the College Pastor of Overflow, which is the College Ministry of First Baptist Church in Denton, Texas. Jared, his wife Julie, and their three kids reside in Sanger. As a transplant from Tennessee, he is disappointed about how frequently he is asked about the wrong UT.