I love my kids, but as a divorced working mom having them all home for the summer is a big adjustment. My two college students and high-schooler (and me) are all sharing our two cars, and only one of us has a predictable work schedule. Throw in summer baseball at the collegiate level and coordination of get-togethers with family and friends while the kids are home, and it can crazy pretty quickly. For you, the challenge might be having younger kids out of school for the summer and the prospect of all that free time to fill, or it might mean young adults returning home to figure out their next steps.
No matter the ages of the kids, or the specific circumstances, having more people in the house, with the plethora of moods and demands on your time and energy is tough. Here are 6 tips you can use to adjust so you can keep (or regain!) your peace of mind.
- Acknowledge the need for an adjustment period.
- Accept your kids’ growing independence and the changes that means for your relationships.
- Tune in to your own needs and default “mom” behaviors, then decide what to keep and what to let go; determine your non-negotiables so you’re clear before acting.
- Set ground rules, preferably in conjunction with your kids.
- Coordinate and communicate regularly; family meetings can work well for this.
- Appreciate having your kids around; they won’t be home forever.
Tip #1: Acknowledge the need for an adjustment period.
When kids come home from college or young adults move back home, or when younger children are out of school for summer or have other major changes in their normal schedules, everyone needs to get used to a new normal. School age kids are used to a routine and a schedule, structured around the school year and classroom flow. Older kids are used to being independent while they’re at college or living on their own. It’s challenging when they have to get used to living interdependently again.
It’s not just a challenge for the kids. Parent have big adjustments to make as well. For divorced moms, the impact can be significant as we face challenges such as childcare for younger kids and how much freedom to allow older kids. And there are financial challenges as well, such as the cost of summer camps and childcare and the increased grocery and utility bills from more mouths to feed and more laundry and showers going on.
We also need to adjust to how to parent in these new situations as our kids grow up and require different kinds of parenting and different ways of being in relationship with us as moms. One of my favorite friends tells the story of her goddaughter coming home after her first year of college. She’d come to my friend’s house with lots of gripes about “those people.” They all got on her nerves—her parents didn’t recognize how independent and grown she really was; her brother was a pain; her sister had taken over their bedroom and gotten a new bed; and she didn’t feel like she had a home there anymore. Her parents, also friends, were mostly aggravated with her at the time. That’s pretty typical of a first year college student.
Regardless of your circumstances, allow everyone a few days, even a week, of emotional ups and downs to weather the highs of being together and the adjustment to how it’s all going to work this summer. If you’re a planner or a fixer, relax for a few days and let the kids do the same. I had to remind myself of this when I wanted to talk to my youngest about summer school to address his poor grades from last semester the day school got out! I chose to give him a few days off first and found him more receptive to the discussion.
Things will settle down, and then it will be easier and smoother to look at next steps, which I’ll be discussing in my next few blog posts.
By the way, those college students do usually come to appreciate their home lives. Today my friend’s goddaughter has graduated from college and is living at home while searching for a job. She wanted to take home leftovers from her godmother’s house after a party last week because they had nothing to eat at home. Her mom was away, and there wasn’t anyone to cook for her. She’d grown to appreciate how good she had it at home.