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by Jennifer L. Post
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
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
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."
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.'"
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.
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,"
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
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."
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.
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
"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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