Tips to Survive the Summer before and during College


A fun Sunday

This picture is from a recent Sunday with all the kids home. We had a great day. However, all of our days with our teen and young adult kids aren’t and haven’t been great. Sometimes we clash. The summers of their college years are especially hard because they are changing.

Whether your child is returning from college for the summer or looking forward to leaving for college in the fall, they most likely are becoming difficult to live with.  The truth is your kid is not the same kid he was last summer. Whether heading off to school in the fall or returning this summer, he’s entering the next season of his life and he’s no longer a child. He’s struggling to separate from the family and become his own person—yes, even more than he did in high school. When Katie returned home early on in her college career we experienced a lot of friction. She had been living on her own and didn’t feel like she needed our input into her life. For our part, we wanted the family to continue in relative peace. That required compromise on both our parts.

Your teen is experiencing transition. We’ve all been through enough transitions in life to know they’re not easy and never painless. The pain of this transition can mess with your teen’s emotions, especially since she has no clue what she’s feeling or why she’s feeling it. Crabby, angry, weepy, moody, and uncommunicative are a few words that come to mind to describe your teen’s response to this transition.

The harsh reality is the teen must live at home till it’s time to move on. The challenge is to find an agreement that works for everyone.

1. Be flexible. Where can you give your teen more space to be his own person? When Katie came home it was important for her to have her own space so we made her a bedroom in the finished basement. It gave her a place to call her own and helped her be in a better mood when she was with the family. Also important to Katie was the freedom to come and go as she pleased. I felt like she used our home as a hotel and we were concerned for her safety.  We drew up a compromise where Katie texted me with the time she would be home. She was also responsible for a few home chores. I backed up from her personal world and didn’t pry.

2. Adjust your attitude. Think back to when you were your teen’s age. How did you feel? How did you view your family? What were your hopes and dreams? Seeing life from their viewpoint will help you be more patient and loving with them.

3. What do you want to remember from this summer? This summer will come only this one time. How do you want it to be remembered? Major on the important things. To do this, decide your non-negotiables. What are the few house rules you will enforce this summer? Remember your teen is about to be launched so make these about personal safety, the atmosphere of the home for the rest of the family, etc. A couple of our non-negotiables are nothing illegal (including downloads), no smoking or alcohol, sharing a bedroom unless married or undermining parental authority with other siblings. A few non-negotiables will take away your need to nag and makes room for you to have a conversation with your teen about something other than what he’s doing wrong.  When I stopped making everything an issue, Katie didn’t push back as often either.

4. Let your teen face the circumstances of his own poor choices. Your teen may choose to ignore your efforts to make this a great time and she may make poor choices. Don’t rescue her. These consequences may be just what she needs to mature.

5. It’s going to be a tough season. Hang in there. Keep your expectations low. Don’t make everything an issue. If an issue does not need to be discussed at the moment sequester the moment and enjoy your teen.

Life will never be the same as it is this summer. Who knows what life changes will happen in the coming year. Focus on the good and remember—she’ll be out of the house in three months!


Brenda Garrison is an author and speaker who empowers women with the confidence to live their calling. Brenda is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ministry Leadership with a Concentration in Women’s Ministry at Moody Bible Institute. She and her husband, Gene, are the parents of three young adult daughters and live near Metamora, IL.

2 thoughts on “Tips to Survive the Summer before and during College

  1. I just googled your exact title “How to survive the summer before your child goes to college”. Ugh! Our son that is heading off to college in the fall is the oldest in our family by 8 years so that leaves us with a 10 year old, 7 year old and 4 year old at home. We have realized to cherish every single second with the littles as this is the best years as parents. Our son was very, very easy to deal with during high school. He wasn’t your typical kid who pulled away much. He was also very late to mature and develop which I am sure had something to do with it. He really came into his own his senior year and of course he now knows absolutely everything. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree as I was the same way at his age. I am trying my best to remember that! In the past two weeks he has been invited to come to some fraternity lunches, swimming events, BBQ and now today he is suppose to be going on an overnight camping trip. This would be his first one without us and we are trying to be cool and back off and give him the freedoms that he needs at this age. However last night he came home completely wasted drunk from the fraternity BBQ. (I must note he wasn’t driving as there is zero tolerance with that). I am not a fool and of course I know that isn’t the first time he has ever drank but I make him check in with me each night and he has always been fine. My husband said “what did you expect to happen when he went to a fraternity BBQ”?????? Ugh, I don’t think I am cut out for this. I honestly do not now what to do. I don’t want to condone that behavior and at the same time I don’t want him sneaking around all the time either. Sounds like you have several teenagers, maybe you have some insight for me. He plans to join a fraternity so obviously this wont be the last time he will get wasted. He is suppose to go camping today with another fraternity and I am just sick to my stomach thinking about it. Do I say “no your not going since you came home wasted last night?” Or do I let him go knowing what will happen. It is just SO scary to face sending your kids into these situations or to college period. I told my husband we are turning Mormon. haaaa I think they are on to something.

    1. Oh, Mindy! I feel your pain. This is a difficult time! I will email you a piece I wrote on this very topic and trust it will help. I don’t think you need to pretend everything is fine with your son. He will need to face the consequences of his actions which may include few privileges at home and with the car. My latest book, Love No Matter What: When Your Kids Make Decisions You Don’t Agree With, offers much help and encouragement for this season of life.
      Praying for you all,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *