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.

Don’t Trash Your Break

Don't Waste Your Break

Whoever came up with the word, “Finals” was a very misleading character. For months and months a student looks forward to finals, but life exists after finals. Granted there is an intense feeling of relief similar to finding a rest stop after finishing a 64oz Big Buddy slushy, but I viewed finals as the end, when in reality it was only the beginning of a new chapter.

Sadly too much time is often given in preparation for finals forgetting that there is life after finals. It is sort of like the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, all of the suspense is gone after the ring is destroyed, but Tolkien still writes about the Shire, because that is important to those who live there. There is life after mount Final, and I would like to describe some of the things I wish I had known to prepare myself for the real world of Christmas break and beyond.

  1. I wish I had known that I had tied up my identity with being a college studentstudy-table-1275249-m

For months and months, I existed for one sole purpose, study. Now that purpose is gone. My affirmation and phony ideas of self-worth because I had memorized the periodic tables and could name the multiple parts of the Larynx no longer mattered, in fact those facts where considered boring in the real world. Along with my loss of identity came a sense of insecurity, I didn’t know where I fit anymore as this half child, half adult amphibian type creation.

  1. I wish I had known that I was not in control of my schedule

At college, I was in charge. I knew when I would eat, sleep, and recreate. I ruled my time as sole heir of everything that was allowed into my life. This monarchy met reality once Christmas break started. Families and employers had been planning and dreaming about what would happen when I got home. Save yourself a ton of strife and misunderstanding by calling them before you get home and asking if they have any plans. This is especially important with mothers as they have dreams to make everything special.

  1. I wish I had known that independence/respect was earned

While I was at college, I was treated as an adult. I needed to realize that not only was I entering the land of my childhood, but success in college did not qualify me for respect in life. A good rule of thumb would be to remember that I should never talk to my parents in a tone or way I would not address my professor. If I deserved an F for not turning in an assignment or for sloppy work, I deserve an F at home for showing up late or leaving my clothes in the walkway.

  1. I wish I had known that I had major opportunities to invest in real relationships

When home over break, most people get to spend time with the people who invested the most in them, and made them who they are. These are the real friendships that should get the most attention. Take mom or dad out for coffee, participate in a younger sibling’s project, sit and talk with the grandparents. If possible contact a high school teacher or spiritual leader, chances are they would love to hear about your life but don’t want to intrude. The cute cat photos on Facebook can wait while you invest in 3D relationships.

  1. I wish I had known that I needed to get involved

People wanted to know more about my experiences, but they also wanted to share theirs with me. I assumed that I knew what happened in their life because nothing ever changed at home. One of the best ways to get involved is to ask good questions about your family and friends at home. Even though you are only home for a month get involved. Get involved in your family. Play games, be adventurous, enjoy making new traditions. Get involved in your church through starting conversations, or joining the choir or helping in youth activities. One of the greatest reasons college students are stereotyped as selfish lazy slobs is because they view break as a well-earned rest to be spent on themselves.

  1. I wish I had known that I could still read a book over break

After hundreds of hours studying, I began to realize that there are many topics that I am truly interested in. Don’t let your mind go to waste during break. Grab a novel or read up on a topic you enjoy, look ahead to next semester and finish off a reading report to give an extra cushion in case of an Ebola outbreak on campus.

  1. I wish I had known that I should exercise fitness-series-3-68976-s

If you were to leave a tomato out on the counter for the entirety of Christmas break without moving, that would be similar to what happens to your body after stuffing yourself with Christmas goodies and a sedentary lifestyle for a month. Find an open gym, go play hockey, go sledding, enlist in a free gym membership, do pushups or jumping jacks for every helping of fudge.  Do something that takes more energy than watching It’s a Wonderful Life.

  1. I wish I had known that I needed a goal

You have been offered a free simulation of what life after graduation will look like. As in life during break, you have more education, and the ability to make your own goals to accomplish whatever you set your mind to. As a general rule how you spend your Christmas vacation will be how you spend your life.

Don’t waste your break.

Help the rest of us out by listing ideas and thoughts you wish you had known before break.

What I wish I knew at College



Welcome to a whole new world.   College, a chance to spread your wings, stay up late, learn new things and eat cold pizza for breakfast. If I could relive a portion of my life, it would be college. If I could relive it, there are several things, however, I wish I knew before starting college.

  1. I wish I had known about life…

Lots of learning happened when I didn’t expect. After tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds of books, I couldn’t repeat one main point or reproduce one study guide. The learning that will stay is the learning that is done. My learning often came through involvement. Go out of your way to find ways to utilize the stored information until it becomes part of you. This utilization will take different forms depending on your major (particularly if you are a heart surgeon), but find ways to involve yourself.

  1. I wish I had known about family…

My adventure was a bigger loss for my family, than me. While I was looking forward my family was looking backwards to the way things used to be.

People could not experience my life if I didn’t share.  People back home want to know about your life.  It helps them feel connected.

They also want you to ask about their life. One of the biggest mistakes is thinking that because it used to be that way when you left that it will stay that way  Even if nothing changes at home, the family still wants to tell you about themselves.

Come to think of it, I don’t know if anyone back home knows that my intermural football team went undefeated?

There are lots of ways to keep in contact, but do not forget the simplicity and importance of writing a hand written letter. There is something extremely meaningful about this form of contact especially for moms. I would suggest making a list of all the blessings and skills your family gave you and making it personal.… Mom, thank you for giving me the best years of your life. Thank you for the skills you gave me, potty training has been immensely useful….

  1. I wish I had known about snacking…

Don’t eat pepperoni pizza past midnight.

Never ever, ever, even think about taking a multivitamin on an empty stomach.

Most granola bars are candy bars in disguise.

Eat a salad once a day.ramen

Buy Reese’s Puffs when it’s on sale.

Remember not all Ramen noodles are created equal.

Anything from the Dollar store should not be eaten.

(After years of concentrated study and field research,

Maruchan brand should be sought after as the ultimate in epicurean delight.)



  1. I wish I had known about friends…

I wish I had invested more in friendships. Find people you can invest in. Use your skills and areas of expertise to help people. Don’t be afraid to just hang out.

I wish I had purposefully invested in those who were investing in me. To this day, some of my strongest friends are professors and pastors I met at school. Feel free to take your Pastor (or his wife) out for coffee, send them an email thanking them specifically for their investment. Remember, your home Pastors and wives go through withdrawal seeing their “kids” go off into another world.

Remember your professors. Most professors have been in school for longer than you have been alive, yet even with their education, you probably make more money flipping burgers at McDonalds. They are there because they love you. Talk with them after class, ask them deep questions that show you are interested. Not only will this help you learn more, it may result in a better friendship, and probably a better grade.

  1. I wish I had known about me…

I spent a lot of time making sure I didn’t fail. Failure makes you stronger. Make sure you put yourself in situations where failure is inevitable. The process of picking yourself up will create character and build stamina for life.

It is easy to have a very egocentric outlook on life. Criticism shows more about me than it does the other person. When you find yourself complaining or not liking a situation ask yourself a few basic questions. “Why don’t I like this?” “What can I change?” “What can I learn?” Be specific in your answers.

As a quick example, when I was at school there was a rather boring professor. The answer to the first question involves stating the facts. He was not engaging, the topic was not made relevant.

Part of my solution was found in the answer to the second question, “What can I change?” I realized I could not change the teacher, but I could engage by asking questions, and make the lesson relevant by talking to him about the significance after class.

In answer to the third question, “What can I learn?” I analyzed the teaching style and kept track of things I would do as a teacher, and things I wouldn’t. After asking those three questions, a boring informational class actually became a time of intense personal learning.

  1. Things I am glad somebody told me…

Keep a journal. It will help you analyze your thoughts and is an excellent resource.

Wake up at the same time. It is tempting to sleep in on off days, but your body will work better on a schedule.

Take a power nap. 15 minute naps are like plugging in your smart phone while online.

Plan ahead. Get big projects like reading done at the beginning of the semester. (Make sure to check if there are requirements attached such as a weekly quiz or report.)

Exercise with a friend.

Don’t date the first semester. (Desperate people are looking for you…!)

Pursue personal interests.