Student Culture, Trends & IssuesTransitions

On Helping Students Go Home

As students near the end of another term… and some, graduation… many will make their way towards the home of their parents.

And although they return to a place that is familiar, to people who love them (we hope), we know that they head back different — changed — from who they were the last time they were there.

Regardless of whether they’re first semester freshmen, or graduating seniors, once students have been out on their own — and tasted many of the new-found adult freedoms — it can be hard to go back under the roof — and authority — of their parents.

We see God lay, as a  part of the foundation of the law (and moral life), the command — yes, command — to honor your mother and father. There is no age clause associated with this law (or any of the others). And this is the first of the 10 Commandments that deal with human to human relations (the first four commandments deal with human relations with God).

But the idea of honoring and obeying other people — even our parents — can feel like a challenge, especially after having been out “on our own.” Yet, the Bible seems to be clear that this is what God expects — even requires — of us.

So how do we help our students prepare for this “re-entry” to the home of their parents — such that it’s not a time of constant testing and tension — but more so a time of love and celebration? Because the reality is that while students have stepped into some new areas of freedom — they have hopefully started to take on some new levels of responsibility as well — and parents will need to acknowledge that their relationship with their child is indeed in a season of transition.

Every family will approach this transition differently. Some will find their way through it quite naturally. Others however, will struggle, believing that the other party is being unreasonable and not showing the respect that is duly owed.

While there are few (if any) ways we can actually influence the parents who are about to receive their college student (or graduate) back home, we can help to prepare the students. Here are a few ideas I have…

Make students aware of potential tension. I think students (and parents) often believe that returning home will be without issue. The problem is that most parents assume the family will pick-up back where they left off when the student left home. Students, on the other hand, will assume that the family will pick-up with the full knowledge of all of the changes that have taken place over the past semester/year/college career and that new/no boundaries should just be assumed. You can see where the conflict naturally arises here.

Explore the idea (and command) of honoring parents. In the midst of conflict, then, it can be hard for students to lean into God — and this idea of honoring their parents — because they don’t feel like they are being honored and respected. As they are moving towards adulthood, college students want to be treated as such, and can therefore struggle to give respect in relationships where they feel like they are not getting any in return. And while this is an issue worthy of addressing, I want to focus on how we can help students to choose to honor their parents in the face of conflict and tension. Getting students to explore this idea — ahead of time — can make a HUGE difference in how their time at home will go.

Talk through some potential problems. The reality is that most students, if pressed, could probably think of an issue (or maybe a few) that they know will be a point of contention back home. Help them to think through how they might enter into discussions about those areas — peaceably — with their parents… such that they are showing them honor — and ultimately Christ at work in them.

Come up with a game plan. Helping students to come up with a game plan may be one of the best things we can do with them before they leave campus. They need to know that every conversation doesn’t need to be a battle. They need to know that we will continue to be available as a resource to them even after they leave campus. They need to make some commitments regarding their own attitudes and behavior… and then choose ahead of time to stick to those commitments, even if their parents do not mirror those same commitments.

Those are a few ideas that I have, but I know this list is not exhaustive, nor is it probably appropriate for every home context.

So, what would you add to this list?

Please take a moment to share your thoughts in the comment section below.