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How to adjust when your college kids come home for the summer

Adjusting to college students home for summer
How to adjust when college students come home for summer 03:45

When college students go home for the summer, it can be a complicated reunion. As CBS News contributor and psychologist Lisa Damour recently wrote in the New York Times, "Adding college students back into family life is rarely as simple as rebooting their high school days."

"What's happening is that everyone is entering a new chapter in the parent-child relationship," Damour told "CBS This Morning." "And everyone has to figure out what that looks like."

Damour said college students returning home are often tired and feel like they're on vacation, but it can lead to a confusing adaptation.

"I had college students say to me, 'I'm on vacation, but nobody else is on vacation,'" Damour said. "And that is a strange thing to have to adapt to."

For parents who want to ask their college kids what time they'll be home, Damour says it's a fair question. But how parents phrase the question is key.

"I think we have to be prepared that for the kid who's been really independent, it can feel like a loaded question," Damour said. "It's a fair question, but I think it may be worth taking steps to reframe it a little bit. And say, 'Look, I'm not trying to control you. This is about some of the courtesies of us living with one another. Should we expect you for dinner, should we set a place for you? Do you think you're coming home? Give us a sense.' But to maybe make that extra gesture to say, 'We're in a new chapter, but we have questions to ask.'"

For college students bringing home questionable habits, Damour says parents should be understanding, but draw a line.

"The parents might say, 'We get it, you're drinking in college,'" Damour said. "'But you're not cracking a beer in front of your 10th-grade brother.'"

And Damour said parents should understand that no matter how much they miss their college kids, those kids still have their own lives.

"When I talked to the college students about what was top of mind for them coming home, they said, 'I'm excited to see my old friends, I miss my college friends.' They are often interested in the romantic landscape they left behind. I had one young man say to me, 'I don't know where things stand with my high school girlfriend.' And I said, 'Is the outcome of this going to shape your summer?' And he said, 'Oh, yes.'"

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