What Happened to My Family at College?


Summer break! A time to relax from the intense pressure of homework and the ever watchful eye of professors and hall monitors. A time to catch up with family in between work, church, and play. Summer break, a time to feel awkward about relationships…. Let’s be honest, relationships are messy and family relationships over summer break can sometimes be the messiest of them all.

The awkwardness of relationships often starts with parents. Chronologically they are the first relationships we all have and therefore have the most history. From day one, your parents had dreams and plans for you, many of which you do not have for yourself. This can cause some tension, but not nearly as much as the awkwardity of the transitional period of adulthood. This transitional period has many factors.

The first factor is that as a college student for nearly 9 months you were in control. You controlled your schedule, you controlled your entertainment, your study, your habits…. The person you reported to from homework to eating an extra pepperoni pizza @ 2:00 in the morning, was you. Now you are back in your little room with family members and parents who are not used to the way you have run your life. This combination is like miracle grow for tension. My suggestion is, talk it over with your parents. (Not while you are leaving the house and they ask, “Where are you going?”) Ask them about their summer schedule, and share with them some of the things you would like to do. A good rule of thumb, would be, treat your parents with the same respect you would your summer boss.

The second factor is the transition from teen to adult. If you remember back when you first hit puberty everything was different. Your desires and goals jumped from adult to kid and bounced around like a freshmen boy’s voice. That transition from kid to adult was difficult, and in a way that same transition is happening again on an emotional, and spiritual level. After experiencing life as an adult (in a dorm or apt), you feel ready to stretch your wings and fly, but the problem is, you are still in the nest. (For those of you who may be reading this at midnight, your parents are paying for the mortgage, mom is still preparing food, and you are diligently chirping for more freedom.)

When you kinda feel like an eagle being asked to go back into its shell, you have two options. You could sit your parents down and demand they show you some respect or else you are going to pack up all your things and camp out in your 1992 Corsica, or start proving to them you are an adult by showing them respect. Many times college students seem to view break as their time to relax. Realize that part of being an adult means that you don’t get time to relax. Explaining to your parents why you didn’t have time to clean your room, or pick up the Cheese Nip box in the TV room is not going to impress your Dad who puts in 50+ hours.

     If you want respect, you must give it out. Respect your parents by going the extra mile and showing them by your actions you are an adult. Look for ways to add to the family dynamic. If you know your mom is heading on a trip, fill up and vacuum out the car. Surprise your parents by finishing the dishes or making a meal and doing clean up. Volunteer to take the younger kids to swimming lessons or practice.

If you are not an asset, you are a liability.

Awkwardness can also result from sibling relations. While you were gone, it may seem like your younger brother must have taken Sarcasm 101 at night school, and what on earth made your younger sister decide to go all Goth? Obviously, it is up to you as the older, wiser, college student to unveil their stupidity and amaze them with your wisdom. Regarding younger siblings, there are a few things to remember.

First, remember that, “Only by pride cometh contention.” A soft answer will defuse tension before it  begins, but if you insist on showing your sibling how much wiser you have become during college, tension will explode and you may lose a valuable friend for life.

Second, remember that you have just come back into their territory. Your reign as older sibling matters about as much as the top 10 pop artists from the 70’s. You may be able to bully them into getting you your pop during a movie, or forcing them out of “your” chair, but you were never elected into your royal position.

Third, remember they have also gotten older. They may not look it with braces or a Mohawk, but they are many months closer to adulthood. Listen to their thoughts and ideas. Don’t cut them off mid-sentence or explain the ludicrousy of their ideas, for it is during those times that they are sharing their souls. Don’t let your pride cause you to put them in their place or cut them down. Determine to build them up and look for ways to genuinely compliment them.

Fourth, remember that they have had a life while you were gone. You may feel like everything is the same, but it is not. While you were away, your siblings won awards, performed in concerts, succeeded or failed in many areas. Ask them about their life. Nothing smacks of arrogance like the assumption that you know all about another person without asking.

Fifth, remember to spend time with them. You may not have many more opportunities to spend time with your younger siblings before you or they are out of the house. If they have the same interests as you, great, but make sure you invest time in doing things that they are good at and enjoy.

Sixth, remember that you are a huge influence. Younger siblings can be annoying, and who better to teach them how to grow up than their older siblings? As we discussed, this is not done mainly through words, but actions. Influence is not really an option, the direction, however, most definitely is.

I pray that you will be able to try out some of these suggestions. Let me know how they work, or share ways you may have invested in your family.

3 thoughts on “What Happened to My Family at College?

  1. Suddenly I’m imagining your younger siblings with Mohawks… this is not good.

    But the blog post was entertaining and helpful, as usual.

  2. Some say that college is four years of vacation between a boys mother and a mans wife… Unfortunately, those conflict in dangerous ways to the danger of the relationships. Another danger is to slap down after work and say – “There, my job is done. Many seldom realize that when you get home – your real job is just beginning.
    Great post. Your writing reflects His Spirit.

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