This is part one in a two-part series. Part two will address how to help your younger child adjust and thrive over summer break.
You finally adjusted to your adult child being away at college. Of course, you were still eager for those few texts and even fewer phone calls, but you got used to eating -- and sleeping -- on a certain schedule.
Well, you don't have to say goodbye to sleep and life as you know it. In fact, not only is it proven that college students who get more sleep do better in school, it's also true that young adults need structure and may even welcome your help in getting them on a schedule. Here are some strategies to help you do just that.
First, don't read them the rules on the ride home from the university. Give them time to unwind and adjust. They've been heavily into studying, busy socially and academically and likely losing sleep. Going from a whirlwind lifestyle to calmer home setting can take some time to settle in -- around 2 to 3 weeks. You need to allow them to catch up on sleep and encourage them to retain their independence.
Have a Family Meeting
Still, you don't want to wait too long to establish some ground rules -- for the entire family. After about a week, have a family meeting to discuss expectations and how you're all going to contribute to making the household function well. There should be some summer plan, and even if your child works outside the home, he or she will need to do chores (be it laundry, yard work or walking the dog). Make sure your child has a voice and a choice, and the outcome will be successful. Compromise is important, and you may have to adapt, too.
How to Get Your ZZZZs
Next, you'll want to discuss sleep (or lack of) patterns. While you can't force your college-age child to go to sleep when you want them to, you can reinforce that they need sleep to be productive, healthy and feel their best. Your child's (and your) sleep also can be disrupted by their social life. We know they are going to go out. Ideally, they should do this on the weekends so as not to interrupt the sleep of other family members. Tell your child what time other members of the home usually go to bed so he or she can mindful of these times when staying up later. Every family member must have respect for all members of the household.
Family Meals Are Still Important
Proper nutrition is also key. Get your child involved in the process of shopping for, planning and cooking meals. Ask them what they've been eating at school, and build on the healthy choices they are already making. When time permits, create healthy, tasty meals together, and be sure to have family meals as often as possible. Bonding through sharing time and communicating fears, plans and goals is critical to fostering mutual respect.
Take Advantage of This Precious Time
Your child may be nearly "all grown up," but, as parents, we need to continue to teach them skills to become successful adults. Having structure will help your child become an independent adult at college and after graduation. This is a golden opportunity for your family to share precious moments before your child is off on their own and for your child to take advantage of a little down time before they take on life's major responsibilities.
Ingrid Y. Prueher is Founder of The Baby Sleep Whisperer. She is a bilingual, Certified Family Sleep Institute (FSI) Child Sleep Consultant, Lactation Counselor, Happiest Baby on The Block and Dunstan Baby Language Educator, Newborn Care Specialist, Greening Home Expert, Pre & Postnatal Stress Management Coach, Holistic Health Coach and Wellness Advocate for doTerra Essential Oils.
A seasoned sleep and nutrition consultant, Ingrid uses her extensive experience and knowledge to help adults, parents and children across the globe who struggle to get to sleep. Sleepless parents choose to work with Ingrid either virtually or via an in-home visit.
Ingrid is a sought-after expert and is the host of Parents.com Web TV series and the host of the weekly radio show Baby Sleep 911 Help! on Blog Talk Radio. Ingrid's work has been featured in American Baby, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Daily News, U.S. News & World Report, Fox News Channel, PIX 11 News, the Huffington Post and other media.
Ingrid was born in Guatemala and raised in New York. She holds a bachelor's degree from St. John's University in New York, and a master's degree from The New School in New York City. She and her husband, Jason, live in Connecticut with their two young sons.