Archive for the ‘college students’ category

Allow transition time to summer vacation

June 25, 2012
college students are like lame ducks. They've experienced the freedom of college and now have to spend summer with mom and dad. Parents need to communicate with college students about expectations.

Close the door if you can’t stand the mess and let kids of all ages keep their rooms how they choose. You have bigger concerns on which to pour parental energy.

Most kids despise transitions. They like routines, the safety of knowing what’s coming next.

Give them at least two weeks to settle down into the new summer schedule, whether it’s more time at home, with relatives or at camp or summer school. Until they settle down, cut them extra slack when they are quick to anger, resist doing chores and squabble with you and siblings more often.

Expect less and show more patience during the two weeks of transition. You’ll be calmer by adjusting  expectations and having a plan.

If you have the revolving door of college students, have a family meeting or at least a chat about how you expect them to contribute, keep track of their belongings and communicate about their whereabouts.

The start of summer is a good reason to have a family meeting with kids of all ages to set up summer plans for fun, chores, routines and agreements on screen time. Figure out a way that they will self-monitor screen time so you’re not the cop.

Family meetings pay off in the long run because they engender every positive characteristic you want kids to develop. They especially promote the priceless gift of connection that eventually keeps tweens and teens making good independent decisions.

Whatever you do with your toddlers, school age, tweens and teens this summer, make sure it involves some outdoor time reveling in the woods.  Allow them to feel boredom without plugging into a screen. They will discover resource and creativity through boredom. It is a problem they can solve without plugging in. Remember the four most powerful words in the English language: You can do it.

How do you handle the big transitions around the school calendar? Do your kids act out?


The yin-yang of school vacation

December 15, 2010
yin yang of college students brings changes for parents and children. LEarning to roll with the developmental stages of college students and teenagers and life is a skill. Discipline and family meetings and structure are a part of getting along with college students who come home.

Kristen prepared this delicious dinner of macaroni and cheese, carrot raisin salad and a green salad. Yum.

One of the hardest parts of life and parenting is the constant development and change, and eventual growing up and leaving home by children. When parenting is hard and we have to put our own needs second, it’s hard to stay in the present moment and enjoy the age and stage of our children.

Childhood sometimes feels like it moves like a turtle, then all of a sudden, it has flown away like an eagle and the nest is empty.

When Kristen, 22, comes home from graduate school for holidays and Ian, 26, temporarily roosts here between seasons of organic farming, it feels wonderfully familiar and good. That’s the Yin.

The Yang is, “They left the kitchen dirty AGAIN! What happened to my routines and my food!?” And again after they leave, “I have way too much food in the fridge,” “I’ve gotten used to them being here. The house and my heart feel stripped, quiet and abandoned.”

The Yin-Yang of children living with us and growing up is part of the constant change of life’s seasons. Adjusting to empty nest is often under-rated in significance. It is a HUGE change.

For those of you with little ones, you have regular milestones where they don’t need you as much. Giant steps in development accumulate regularly. My mother said, “Babies need mothers less and less every day from birth forward.” Very true.

They stop nursing, start walking then start school and day care. Later on, their friends become more important and they stop talking to parents as much. Tweens and teens spend more time at school, work and with friends. The increasing separation during the high school years prepares us for the final separation.

The four to six years of revolving door to and from college is fraught with adjustment. As soon as I get used to them being here, they’re gone.

The good news is that we have some agreements on living together, will share in the cooking and cleaning, and enjoy the present moment for as long as we have it. It feels good to have family dinner together again.

The past is history         The future is a mystery

So we must celebrate the gift of the present

A really good reason to have a dog

September 16, 2010
Gonzo is stretching beside Cindy. Having pets is a wonderful way to bond with children. Pets and families go together. Good parenting means spending time with children and animals and slowing down to their time.

Gonzo decided to stretch beside Cindy.

The only reason I’m a dog owner is because my children wanted a dog.

What would you say when your daughter, 14, calls you at work, where you’re working under a regular weekly deadline as the editor of a newspaper. Your second dog has just died after nine years with the family — if only she could have hung on three more years.

Your daughter’s three older siblings have left home. Your daughter is home along after school. Your daughter asks in a very small voice, (very unlike other voices she uses with her mother), softly, with vulnerability, like she’s 7 years old again, “Dad says if you say “yes” we can get another dog.”

If you’re a good mother and not a dog lover, just a dog tolerator, what’s your answer?

Gonzo came to live with us eight years ago. The daughter left home four years ago. So you know who takes care of the dog. Dad! I’m her stepmother. I do what looks good and feels good and what I feel like doing because she belongs to dad and daughter.

One really good reason to have a dog is because of the cute, funny and stupid things they do. Even when my children were spitting mad at me, I could always change the atmosphere by saying, “Do you know what Boomer/Sophie/Gonzo did today?”

Even now that they’ve moved out and onto a better place, my “children” love to hear what Gonzo did today.

When Cindy started stretching, Gonzo plunked herself right between Cindy’s legs. Gonzo and Cindy adore each other. Cindy — my excellent friend and massage therapist — even gave Gonzo a massage.

Even dogs like a good massage. Gonzo is not my best friend, but my children ADORED dogs and bonded with our three family dogs. Dogs go along with having a family. Children can do plenty of chores connected to dogs.

Gonzo gets an expert massage. Cindy is really good at finding tight muscles on mammals and kneading out the tension.

Empty nest isn’t so empty

September 1, 2010
Empty nest comes and goes. Empty nest is an opportunity to re-discover couple hood. Empty nest is hardly and empty feeling. This is a shot of our full nest, with four chidren. Raising children is one of life's greatest challenges. Raising children together meant a lot of good parenting and sacrifice of our couple-hood.

The gang. It feels so normal when they're home, and equally as normal when it rebounds back to the two of us.

“Be prepared for the possibility of your parents divorcing during your freshman year,” read the letter from my daughter’s college in 2006. I, too, wondered if our marriage of 26 years would survive.

Our youngest had prepared us for empty nest during high school with a universal strategy.

  1. Avoid parents.
  2. Get involved with a job, friends and school activities.
  3. Interact with enough courtesy to access the car and money.
  4. Be out when parents are home, and home when they’re out.
  5. Claim, “I can’t eat dinner with you tonight, I have to work.”

When Saturday soccer abruptly ended during her freshman year, it opened up possibilities I had forgotten existed. When she quit Sunday afternoon soccer, whole weekends arrived with no demand for our witnessing, wallet or chaffering.

Even weeknights brimmed with possibilities — no need to whip up dinner, wolf it down and drive someone somewhere.

Her senior year of high school launched us into unfamiliar turf: home alone together often. It was like visiting a foreign country I hadn’t been to in ages, with an old friend, who I hadn’t had time for in a while.

At first, our couple-rebirth was awkward and unfamiliar. Then it blossomed into glorious, fun and eventually, normal.

With our new life for two, we moved into a house in need of total renovation, a distraction for our first two years of empty nest. We’ve always shined under a full-court press.

Next, we took some trips together and rekindled an old interest, duplicate bridge. We play with gusto at least twice a week. It’s a partnership game that’s a lot like staying married. The best teams succeed under duress, don’t berate each other too much for mistakes, and celebrate victory.

The college schedule brought them home with astonishing regularity for a dozen years. As soon as we got used to them being home, filling the fridge with food, sharing cars and TVs, they departed. Silence and stillness descend, until another holiday.

The final curtain has fallen with youngest settled in graduate school. We’ve rehearsed during the renovation project, across the bridge table, and in the quiet of the dinner table set for two.

I fell in love with him. Again. It’s hardly an empty feeling.

Drive a Volvo over a cliff

August 30, 2010
college costs for young people mean parents drive old cars. The decals on our car windows tell all. Every college sticker on the window means thousands of dollars committed to a young person.

I'm waiting for a sticker from Alfred University.

Look carefully at the top of the photo and you’ll see three college stickers. They explain where thousands of dollars have gone in the past dozen years.

A friend who also has four children explains college tuition: “Evey year when I pay the college bill, it’s like driving a brand new Volvo over a cliff.”

His children went to private colleges. We drove used Volvo’s over the cliff because we’re patrons of state schools.

College is a good investment. I’m not complaining, only noticing and explaining the connection between old cars with college stickers.

The 2001 Camry pictured above passed 200,000 miles this summer. I figure every minute I drive it I’m saving money — for more college expenses.

Although this year we have a reprieve. Kristen is in graduate school, with tuition included in her fellowship, and a grant for living expense. She’s almost across the finish line. We’re still supplementing, and I’m happy to be able to do it.

I see my peers on the road, driving old cars, plastered with college stickers on the back window. They should read, “My child goes to this college and all I got is a lousy windshield sticker.”

Set them loose: college students and substance abuse

July 29, 2010
John Belushi is the ultimate example of drug abuse gone wrong, both on the screen and personally. TEenagers and drug abuse are a huge risk. Teens can make good decisions. Good parenting can keep teens out of trouble. spend time together as a family. have family dinner  to prevent drug abuse among tweens & teens. Family dinner is one of the best ways to prevent drug abuse.

John Belushi is the ultimate icon and personal example of drug abuse and excessive behavior. Photo by

Parents, rest assured, every college is a party school. Every first-year college student will have access to alcohol and other drugs.

In installment #3 on drug abuse & children, questions precede  the rules, because college students act and think independently. This is when parents find out if they’ve taught children to make good decisions when they’re 60 miles away going 60 miles an hour.

During family dinner ask college students the following questions. See how much they know. Let them tell you what they know because you know how little parents know 🙂

1. Do you need to do drugs, drink alcohol in order to have fun? If so, you might have a drinking/drug abuse problem. There are places to get help.

2. Do you know about alcohol poisoning? How much does it take? Tell me about the side effects, such as accidental death and injury, rape, and oxygen deprivation.

3. Do you know about date rape drugs? I know a young woman who was given a date rape drug by an upper-class male during her first week of school at an exclusive college. She woke up the next day bleeding from her vagina. His punishment? A one semester suspension. What is your plan to avoid date rape?

4. Do you know it is illegal to buy liquor for and to serve liquor to minors? When someone does that for you, she/he is breaking the law.

5. Do you know any young people who have abused substances and died, been disabled and/or are in rehab? Make it a practice to notice such events in the news.

The rules. Say these to your college students before they leave home.

1. “You are going to school to learn and to earn a college degree, not for a 24/7 party. We (your parents) will ONLY pay college bills and support you when you achieve a grade point average of 3.0 or better. We expect you to finish your education in four years and will only pay for four years.”

2. “If you ever get into a jam, do not hesitate to call me,” even if you are thousands of miles from the college. Parents are aware of many more resources than young people.

3. “You will have access to drugs and alcohol. I am trusting you to make good decisions, practice moderation and get help when you need it. Be responsible. Your live will depend on it.”

It’s okay if they respond with, “Oh, mom!” or “Oh, dad!” You’ve done your parental duty.

Empty nest is inevitable and enjoyable

July 16, 2010

This book is a reminder for all parents that some day their nest will empty. Like all Good parenting books, this book unites us with other parents and reminds us to be in the present momentI enjoyed this collection of essays “The Empty Nest” edited by Karen Stabiner because they reflect the stage of life I’m at, with my fourth and final “child” at home for what might be her last summer before starting graduate school in a few weeks.

As a young mother, the thought of an empty nest seemed far-off, improbable and something to be worried about later, tomorrow, after I made another meal, ran another load of laundry and fell into bed exhausted, surrounded by my little tribe of four.

My mother Mildred, the wise mother of nine children and 25 grandchildren, said, “Each day they will need you less.”

Mom was right. Each day is preparation for the day they will eventually leave your home. If they stay forever, that’s a problem of its own.

Celebrate the moment you’re in now with your child, wherever and whatever that is. Believe older mothers when they say, “This will pass quickly.”

Time seems to go by faster as I get older. Time passing makes clear what is really important.

Editor Karen Stabiner collected the 31 essays from outstanding writers, mostly white and upper class. Several fathers, a few single parents, parents of color and non-heterosexuals were thrown into the mix. The contributors were almost all highly educated, wealthy,  (boarding school types) successful, and well-published.

I wanted to hear from parents of lesser means, with bigger families and smaller careers who are more like me. The essays were all written by accomplished professionals. What about the full-time moms who made motherhood their lives? How did it feel to become obsolete? Why do women have to justify our existence with  a paid career?

I was grateful to be employed outside of the home by the time our four started trooping out the door. I eased the ache.

I still hate to cook alone. The silence and calm of the house feel spooky. I’ve re-learned how to work, think and love without constant interruption — which took some adjustment. Then someone comes home for an extended stay — summer vacation, spring break or occasionally, between jobs. And my life feels normal again.

I live in the yin-yang between old normal and new normal. Both are good.

No matter what, being a mother or father is THE most important thing we will do in our lives, with the longest-lasting legacy. It’s also the toughest.