We survived the all-encompassing moving into college, classes started, we set our phone call routine with our college student. We are somewhat adjusting to the empty room, the quiet house, and the colder mornings.
And then comes visiting weekend. Strange as it feels, we are coming to visit or child in his/her space for a weekend packed with activities, and then leave…
As I have gone through this experience several times – with my own children as well as with the families I work with – I compiled a list of considerations for those of you who are new to “visiting weekend”:
1. What was left behind. Communicate with your student if there is anything that was left behind that will be useful to have. In my case, this is the time to bring what didn’t fit in the car, and the special requests: snow boots, sled, poster hanging in his room, extra blanket, an electric kettle to make tea and soup.
2. Snacks are always welcome! Bring a good selection of the goodies you know your student likes. If you can bake, make something that your student can keep in the room and share with friends. It will probably be consumed in a few hours (teenagers..) so I wouldn’t worry about refrigeration. I also include cereal, cookies, granola bars, chips, dry fruit, nuts, soups and beverages. It is always useful to have a large plastic container to keep all of these goodies, that can be tucked under the bed.
3. Dinner Reservations. If you are planning to go out for lunch or dinner with your student (and perhaps invite some friends?) ask your student where to go and make a reservation. You are not the only parent with those intentions.
4. Empathy for Others. This is an opportunity to teach your student empathy: mention that there are students whose family cannot come to family weekend, and might enjoy coming to lunch or dinner with your family. However, if your student is not comfortable with this idea, I would not insist.
5. Flexibility. The activities planned by the college may or may not be your student’s favorite way of spending time with you. Be open minded and flexible, and prepare yourself to change plans at the last minute.
6. Have a Plan B. Be ready to be “dumped” by your student if a “better plan” comes along. Remember that your student loves you and is happy to see you, but parties and friends have a priority in their lives at this time. If and when you realize that you are priority number 2 or 3, don’t give your teenager a hard time! (as long as they are nice about it). Instead, have a “plan B” in your sleeve: a good book, something fun to do in the area, or meet other parents who have been dumped too! Think that right now, the fact that you are not a priority is healthy.
7. Don’t Clean Up! At all costs, contain your urge to clean their room! Chances are that it will not be up to your standards, the bathroom in particular. However, keep in mind that you are a visitor. You can be humorous about your “different cleanliness standards”, but do not nag or take any action. Just smile and move on.
8. Ask for a tour of their Hangouts. To the extent that your student is comfortable with you interacting with his friends, ask your child to introduce them to you. Make every attempt to know more about their “new life”, it is important for your child to feel your approval! I usually ask for a tour of my sons’ favorite hang-outs. Of course I have visited the school before, but this new tour will be an opportunity to understand better how they experience the school.
9. Compliment, compliment, compliment! Remember when your child gave his/her first steps, how you clapped and cheered? Your child is now trying his/her first steps into independence. Show that you are happy for them, that you like what you see (if you really do) and you trust them to make the right choices. If you like what you see, make sure you clap and cheer (figuratively speaking).
Enjoy visiting weekend with your student!
Let us know how about your weekend…