Five ways to Survive and Thrive living with your College Student

Are you looking for ways to survive and thrive with your young adult living at home?

Last year we had the privilege of sending our eldest son off to college. Much to our delight he chose a school a short plane ride away with lots of direct flights so if I needed to, I could be there quickly. I’m pretty sure that is NOT why he picked the school, but it worked for me none the less 🙂

The year was a great success with lots of lessons learned. Check out my musing last year on getting ready HERE. There were lots of ups, and a few expected downs – mostly for mom! I assumed that he would mature and grow from the experience, but did not anticipate how much. Over the year, we saw him take responsibility for his actions in a new way. He began to understand things like an adult and it was awesome to watch. To say we were proud of how he handled his first year away would be an understatement.

As a parent though, it felt so weird to suddenly not have involvement in his every day life. For the most part, I had no idea what he was eating for any of his meals – other than the fact that his meal card occasionally needed to be topped up! I also had no idea when he was studying, how or when he got home, or whether or not he was doing his laundry. I had no control over what his room looked like. But guess what? He managed just fine. And I managed just fine, because I just had to let it go.

As we start to think about the coming school year, our middle son will be starting his own adventure and going to college in our home town. We are thrilled that he decided to stay at home as our university is excellent, quite large and there are lots of opportunities for him to seek out his passions.

Secretly, I am also thrilled that I am not losing two sons in as many years. But here in lies my challenge for the next year. How do I ensure that my son at home grows and gains this much sought after independence while living at home? What do we need to do as parents to help guide him to grow into this next stage of adulthood while he lives under our roof?

I’ve been thinking about it a lot and figuring out how I can create an environment at home that mimics and will encourage independence while still being respectful of all living there. As you might know, I’m a list maker. So here is my list of five ways to survive and thrive with your adult child at home.


I know this seems obvious, but when your kids are living miles away and you have no consistent ability to keep tabs on them, you are forced to let go. Having an adult under the same roof means mama pulling back, waaaay back. It does not mean there is no accountability. Living under the same roof means remaining respectful in regards to your whereabouts, and when you will be home. It also means being respectful of others that live in the home. No returning at 2am on a Wednesday when others need to get up early for work. This is an adult lesson to learn!


Being at home, I know my gut instinct is going to be to take care of all “administrative” things – I’m pushy like that 🙂 I like to arrange schedules, check classes, coordinate all things school related so basically all they have to do is show up. While I did this for my son in first year, second year registration has come and gone and I was none the wiser. He took care of all of that himself. I am trusting that he is getting the courses required for his degree, and that he has planned his schedule for success. HMMMM – and I didn’t even need to do this for him.

It’s time for mama to back away from the university website and let them figure it out for themselves. What happens if something goes wrong and I can’t control it? I guess that will be a lesson. As much as we hate “lessons” ie: our kids getting hurt, feeling disappointment, or failing – being an adult means facing these things head on and collecting some dings as they head down the road. Lets manifest some resilience in these kids!


So my thought on this one is interesting. I am going to relinquish the laundry, the cleaning, the sheet changing…the chores. I am going to pass this on with reluctance to my adult child in the hopes that these little chores create some further responsibility. I know, I know, many of you are reading this saying “WHAT??? You do your 18 year old’s laundry still??” and the answer is yes – I do. While I’m not particularly proud of it, the control freak in me wants nothing more than to scoop up all the piles of dropped clothes (2 inches from the laundry hamper) and throw them in the laundry.

This year though, I am closing the bedroom door and hoping for the best. Hey – if he was away at school, I would have no idea what was going on in that room, and I need to take a step back and treat him like the adult he is. Laundry and all.


I don’t mean this the way it sounds…REALLY! But having a college student at home means that they will not have the instant new college friend community that “res life” provides. One of the benefits of living on campus is that you are thrust very quickly into the college world and there is no looking back. You are forced to adapt to your new surroundings AND you are all going through the same unknown, first year experience together.

Five ways to survive and thrive living with your college age student

SO – in order to ensure our student is getting the MOST from his college experience – I am going to kick him out A LOT! I am going to encourage orientation week, cheering on the teams, and signing up for intramural sports. I am going to suggest studying at the library, study groups and clubs. Basically – get out kid. Get out and enjoy these next four years. Make them YOURS. And make them different from high school.


The first week my son went away to school, I was nervous to call. Weird right? I wanted desperately to know how he was doing but I didn’t want to seem like I was getting in his space, or checking up on him too much. I wanted to hear his voice, but I also wanted him to adjust without me bugging him. My husband, on the other hand had no qualms about texting or calling everyday – just to touch base – and he didn’t even THINK about the other stuff. Men are such simple creatures.

But, in the end I learned that if I wanted to hear his voice, I should just call. There were very few (if any) times he didn’t pick up the phone when I did decide to call. I think we both enjoyed hearing what was going on in each others worlds so it was a win, win. So, to that end, even though our child will be under our roof, he will still need us.

He will be going through a huge adjustment even if he is not sleeping in a new room. He will be facing new experiences, challenges and the excitement of this next stage of adulthood. He probably will need us. And – I’m not going to think about whether or not I should let him figure this out on his own or not. For this one, let’s face it – I’m there.

Five ways to survive and thrive living with your college student

And that’s all I’ve got…as always leave us your comments and suggestions. We love your feed back! If you are interested in some comments on the above topic, find an interesting conversation HERE from the NY Times in 2009.



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