Five ways to Survive and Thrive living with your College Student

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.



Times are a Changing… Summer with Young Adults

Times are a Changing… Summer with Young Adults

It has really hit me this year. Summer is so different with Young Adults in the house. Unfortunately, although things have been changing subtly for the past several years, somehow this year has been the hardest for me. Perhaps it is because our youngest is now “really” independent, fully into her teens and our boys are actually adults. I guess we are realizing there is no looking back.

Continue reading “Times are a Changing… Summer with Young Adults”

Ten Things your Teen Should Know before Leaving Home

Ten Things your Teen Should Know before Leaving Home

You know how there are those moments in your life you will never forget? The moments where you know that you will remember how you felt, where you were, and what song was on the radio? Sometimes they are special days – like weddings, or births. Other times, they happen on just a plain old ordinary Tuesday. It was just one of these moments that I was inspired to create my list of Ten Things your Teen Should Know before Leaving Home.

I was sorting teen laundry (now that our oldest is home from university, he is taking advantage again of the prime “MOM” laundry service offered at our residence) and I started thinking about how quickly our kids were growing up. Not just in a “get through school and move on” kind of way, but in a REAL, “becoming a functional adult” kind of way. We already have one that is away at school, our middle child graduates this year, and our daughter is a mere three years behind that.

OH MY GOSH… First came the tears, then I started sweating and feeling super anxious – and not just in a peri-menopausal way either (although, I’m sure that had a little to do with it). My cold sweat was really less about the fact that they are growing up and would soon be leaving us, and more because I panicked thinking there are so many things I still need to teach them… It was at that moment that I started making a list (yes – a list, because that is what I do and because it needed to be done RIGHT at that moment) of all the things I want to make sure they learn this summer.

You might be thinking – what about your oldest that already ventured into living on his own this past year? I think because he was living in residence for his first year of school, I didn’t even consider him being on his own. But now?? He is heading into his own apartment in the fall. He will have to clean his own bathroom, make meals, wash floors, perhaps even do some lawn maintenance… These teens need lessons in ADULTING and FAST!

OH, MY GOSH – time to get started. So here is my list of the top 10 things you should teach your teen before they leave home.

1. Clean a good Toilet (and all the other surfaces in the bathroom too!)

No one likes a dirty bathroom kids. This summer I’m teaching a class in Bathroom Cleaning 101. I just can’t wait to herd three teens into a small bathroom and give them the lowdown on cleaning supplies, to always finish with the toilet, and that wiping down the shower each time (ya, right) leads to less work in the long run. Keeping their attention long enough to teach the lesson will be miracle enough, but if they actually retain anything – their future husbands or wives will love me too.

2. Laundry Matters

These are the basics the kids have known for awhile – – > Sort, wash (when in doubt always use cold), dry (when in doubt always use ultra low heat). This summer, I’m kicking it up a notch. We are going to learn to iron a shirt, how to wash delicates, stain removal 101, washing sweaters and even get that steamer working!

ps. I’m getting them in the habit of washing their linens and towels themselves once a week this summer – big goals Christine…big goals.

3. Let’s get Groceries

Of course our kids have accompanied me to the grocery store many times when they were little, but as they grew older this tended to be a chore I saved for when they were in school. This summer though, I am taking them on a tour of the grocery store. We are going to talk prices, picking produce, in season purchasing, expiry and best before dates, and the best things to buy when you are on a budget (ie. grate your own cheese, you can’t afford the pre-grated stuff kid!)

4. Cooking Basics

This is one that I feel that I am already well on my way with. I have to say Hello Fresh is helping me out a great deal with this because their step by step instructions, and child like simplicity to their recipes makes cooking with teens pretty darn enjoyable. In fact, just the other night I came home to dinner 90% complete, the table set AND even the prep dishes done and put away. Score 1 for mama!!

I am going to further instruct the making of omelettes, a good spaghetti sauce, baked chicken fingers, homemade fries, baked potatoes, rice and a few tried and true recipes so they really have a handle on cooking without our favorite meal prep service!!

5. Good Roommate Etiquette

For my oldest, who will be living with a few roommates this coming school year, but really just common sense and good things to think about when you share a space with anyone at anytime in your life!

  1. Don’t leave your wet towels on the floor in the bathroom, and always use a bathmat
  2. Replace the toilet paper when you use the last of it (more on this later)
  3. Let someone know where you are and when you will be home.
  4. Don’t leave your dirty dishes lying around – that’s plain disgusting
  5. If you have a microwave explosion, CLEAN IT
  6. Do – leave a light on when you go to bed and your roommate is expected home later – who wants to come in to a dark house.
  7. Don’t take the last of the coffee in the pot unless you plan to make more
  8. I would love to say “make your bed” but I fear this is a lost cause, so I’m not even going to bother 🙂
  9. Don’t eat someone else’s food in the fridge
  10. Be respectful of each others schedules. Don’t have a Fortnight party the night before your roommates economics exam

6. Change a Tire

Dad – you gotta take this one. If I had a flat tire, the only thing I would know how to do is to either call my husband or my dad. Not proud of it but TRUTH. Time for all three to get their hands dirty (and maybe I will learn something too!)

7. Clean the Kitchen

I mean REALLY clean the kitchen. I’m not bold enough to tell them that after every meal they need to follow these steps. I’m just hoping in a pinch they will know that putting dishes in the dishwasher is a START, but please wipe down all counters, the inside of the microwave, the fridge handle, the stove with some sort of disinfecting spray or at the very least soap and water. AND if you use a cutting board and meat – disinfect that, or live with the possibility of an e-coli outbreak.

8. Money, money, money

One of the most important things I am going to teach the kids this summer is about money. When I got my first summer job, and did the resulting tax return, I was encouraged to max out my RRSP. At the time, it was probably less than $500 but it was something. Since then, I have never NOT maxed out on an RRSP. This summer all of our children will have full time jobs. This summer they will all create a budget for spending money, and then the remaining money will go into savings. This summer they will learn to put money away, and this summer they will learn about RRSP’s and TFSA’s. If you want more info on talking to your kids about money and taxes, check out Danni’s blog post from a few months back HERE

9. The Debt Debacle

Having a credit card sounds like SO MUCH FUN! Oh, and it IS, until you look at that lovely little line on your statement that tells you how long it is going to take to pay off this FUN if you continue to make the minimum payments.

While they currently don’t have access to a credit card – other than mine at certain necessary times, this summer, I am going to do the fun exercise of showing my kids just how much a $100 splurge pair of pants will cost them if they do it on credit and pay the minimum payment each month OR, how much that night at the bar really will cost them. I fully expect they will be stunned. This is an exercise in reality and also not something they think about too much at this age. But no time like the present, right?

10. Toilet Paper Trials

Yes – I know I touched on it briefly in Point 5. But seriously, can we harp on this enough? I am pretty sure there isn’t a middle aged woman in the world who hasn’t sat down on the toilet in their family home and been left with either 1 lonely scrap of TP or a completely empty roll. I have tried to combat this problem by putting toilet paper holders (holds up to 6 rolls) next to each toilet in the house. Weekly, I go around and fill these – but can I tell you how many times I have found the actual roll empty while doing this? Let’s recap – 6 rolls within arms length of you. Empty roll. CHANGE THE FREAKIN’ ROLL. And don’t you dare set it on top of the holder – oh no you don’t…

This summer I am considering fines for the above noted offences.

Let’s make it REAL

So now that we have come to the end of the list of Ten Things your teen should know before leaving home, I’m sure you have your own list of things you would like to add. But here’s the thing. While we know that teaching them these things does not ensure that they will engage in them anytime soon, we just have to do it. As mom of teens, our job is to get them ready for the real world in the best way possible. Just like we try and teach them respect, consideration for others, empathy and truth, we need to get in there with the practical things too.

I am hoping that they will take these things in, that they absorb them in some way and when they are adulting truly on their own (I’m sure much quicker than I expect) they will do it well, with confidence and with their own special flair 🙂

Now – doesn’t it sound like I have a fun summer planned??!!