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You CAN Go Home Again

by Jennifer L. Post

Mother and Daugher

You've taken your last exam, said good-bye to the friends you will cherish forever, and have thrown your mortarboard high in the sky…you've graduated college! The whole world is at your disposal, waiting to be taken by storm. But you've done your homework. You know it's expensive to live on your own. So you decide to go home to live with Mom and Dad again.

Don't worry, you're not alone.

According to Contemporary Society magazine, since the 1980s, the trend internationally has been to leave the parental home at a later age. The average age to marry has increased and rising housing costs imply that having a job no longer means that a person is able to afford establishing an independent residence.

Stephen Klein, Ed.D., director of Albright's Career Development Center, says he too sees more and more students moving home after graduation.

"Some students tend to look for jobs near their home so they can live with parents to minimize their expenses, particularly as they will be paying off loans. Some are not prepared for the professional job search and take an interim position such as their previous summer position or one that helps them transition to a professional position. Some have family expectations that after four years of being away at college they will return home until they get a "well-paid" professional position, get married, or some other major event like going to graduate school."
Klein says this last reason is a common one. "Some students will work for a year and apply to graduate school with a year's worth of work under their belt."

Scott Long '00 lives at home and works in factory sales for his family's business, Protective Coating. He says he has always planned to interview elsewhere, and has started the process. But without a grand plan following graduation, moving home was the answer for him.

Liz Knipe '00 headed home in December after student teaching for a semester. She says she intends to save money by living at home so that she can travel through the states before getting a full-time job. "I want to live a little bit first. It's an intermediate step."

And Lori Thomas '00, who started work as an accountant for Proto-Cast a week after graduation, says, "I had no great plans to conquer the world anyplace else. I wanted to go home and 'collect myself.'"

Home Sweet Hotel

But whatever the reason, Mark Kenney, M.Ed., Albright staff counselor, says it is possible to go home and live with your family in harmony again. It just requires a little more work.
It's been at least four years since both parties have lived under the same roof on a full-time basis. So, both parents and students must go through relational adjustments, says Kenney. "Parents have to ask themselves, 'How do I parent an adult child?'" The level of responsibility has changed. "Parents have to adjust to being called upon rather than being the aggressor," Kenney says. "They become more of an emotional support, a listening ear…they play more of a mentoring role."

Dale Jacobs, M.D., in his book How to Be a Parent When Your Child is an Adult, says, "The goal for parents at this stage is to maintain a close, positive relationship while encouraging our young adult children to grow and strengthen their independence throughout this difficult transitional period in their lives."

Students also need to understand that things at home are going to be different than before they left for college. It's not uncommon, Kenney says, for parents to have an active social life once the nest is empty. "They might not have dinner on the table at 5:00 anymore. They may travel a lot, or go out to eat." Or, on the flip side, they may want to go to bed at 10:00, the time when most early twenty-somethings are just getting started.

It's also important for students to learn to accept their family as they are. When a child has been away for four years, "the halos are removed and they often see their parents in a different light."

Most of all, students should be careful they don't fall back into a dependency role. "Acting like home is the Holiday Inn will create stresses," Kenney says.

Long has experienced similar conflicts since he moved home. "I'm used to school-mode, being in my apartment," he says. His father, Steve Long, can attest to that. "He was in the 'honeymoon' phase. We kind of let him slide for a while. But my wife has started delegating responsibilities."

So how do families cope with these changes? "Set rules and talk early," Kenney says. "Don't have the conversation about expectations in the home at graduation dinner. Discuss it up front."
The expectations, he says, need to be spelled out. How are you going to contribute to the household? Will you pay room and board? What will you use for transportation? Are you responsible for your own laundry? If answers to these questions are agreed upon in the beginning, Kenney says, a lot of the stresses will be removed.

Becky Shugar '00, a commuter student who moved home after graduation to concentrate on job searching, says she had an arrangement with her parents before she graduated, and a different one which includes paying rent, now that she has graduated. Basic chores, she adds with a sigh, are also included in the deal.

But, issues like staying out late, dating and relationships, and privacy may still result in conflict for family members. "Parents haven't seen their child on a consistent basis for four years. They sometimes don't realize that they're not an 18-year-old anymore," says Kenney. And students haven't had to consult with anyone about anything.

A Family

Thomas says her parents "still try to treat me like I'm in high school. They try to keep too close track of me." Although she notes that the pros of living at home, like having her parents there when something goes wrong, definitely outweigh the cons.

Kenney says resolving conflict starts with knowing the dynamics of your family and how people interact.

Shugar and Long both agree that talking out conflicts works best. In my family, "we usually sit down, talk about it, and come up with a game plan," says Long. "And it's important to listen to both sides," Shugar adds. Thomas, on the other hand, says, "We usually fight for a little bit and then I leave…go shopping or something."

Whatever method works best, Kenney notes there are several ways to improve communication between parents and adult-children. "Become a better listener, paraphrase, clarify, and provide feedback in a non-judgemental way." And, he adds, "Listen to yourself.

When the situation starts to impact on your life; when you begin to feel resentment and frustration; when it becomes an imposition," that's when it's time to have a talk and discuss the possibility of the adult-child moving out.

"If you don't say anything about the problem, then it gets worse. The person will burst," he says. "You always want to nip things in the bud. The relationship, he says, will be better in the long run.

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