By Cozy Wittman
Classical music plays in 32 or 64 counts in my dining room while I try to get some work done. I poke my head out of my office to see my dance major warming up at our railing, on the wood floors, in my dining room.
Unlike so many students, she isn’t able to do the bulk of her classes online, and is home trying to continue her training so she is ready to go when school is back in session.
These are trying times for students and parents. Welcoming adults back to your home can be challenging for them and you! Here are a few things to work toward as you come back together.
1. Understand how the COVID-19 displacement changed the trajectory of their major and the end of their school year.
Help them potentially “mourn” the change. In my case, although her disposition was cheery enough, on day 3 she broke down in tears. The dismissal of students meant an abrupt end to a collaboration project between the dance and composing programs.
She had just gotten her music created specifically for her project and was, for the first time, choreographing a large piece for multiple dancers. Her senior classmates were auditioning for their jobs, all cancelled of course.
Her friend, a nursing major, getting ready to do clinicals… now case studies online, not the same as working with actual patients. Internships are being cancelled, study abroad cancelled. Everything evolved on the fly perhaps, but not happening as originally thought.
Letting your student just be sad, angry, frustrated and not rushing them past those feelings because it makes us feel better, is an important first step to making this time together less bumpy. Asking questions around what is frustrating them, what feels so unknown?
2. Figure out the rules for being home that give you peace of mind and them the freedom they are used to.
Perhaps you worked through Christmas break just fine, short period of time, both sides holding their breath til it was time to go back to school. Now though, it is unclear how long your student might be home, perhaps through summer til next fall classes start.
Start to have some conversations around what “rules” will make this easier for both of you. Chat about “hot button” issues like curfew and chores.
Help your student understand what is a “eat at any time” thing and when are you waiting to prep for dinner so you don’t suddenly find that cheese you were going to use gone to an extra-large quesadilla!
Find compromises for things that matter to you, but may not matter to your student, like dirty dishes in the sink, crumbs on the counter, their room looking like a laundry basket exploded, monopolizing the TV for a global game of whatever it is they are playing.
Think about what it might feel like to move in with your parents right now, to have to slide back into the role of kid from the role of “semi” adult.
3. Start making plans for when things get back to normal.
Now might be a good time to chat with your student about what is working well at school and what might they like to change: roommates, majors, school? What is the plan for next year for living – are they moving off campus?
Perhaps you can teach your student to cook with you so ramen, popcorn and cornflakes (my personal 3 faves at college) aren’t the only thing on the menu. Does your student know how to do laundry or is half of their clothing now a common pink color?
How to clean their apartment and what products to use for different areas so they aren’t using the toilet rag for the counter! If they are getting the car for the first time, what should they do about maintenance and repairs.
This is a challenging time for all of us, but making some productive and intentional use of the time together will allow the time to pass uneventfully, or perhaps even with a certain connection with our students we might not have had otherwise!
Cozy Wittman, the Education and Partnerships Manager at College Inside Track, is a mom of 5 and made more
than her share of mistakes during those college searches.