Once your kids get a taste of the college experience, everything changes. They’re suddenly accustomed to making their own decisions, eating what they’d like, and creating their own schedules. In short, they’re used to living outside your rules, and they’re practicing being adults. Before you succumb to despair (or empty nest syndrome), take heart: there will always be home comforts that college can’t replicate.
- Permanence. Living on campus often necessitates shared housing that rotates on a yearly basis, making it difficult to personalize one’s space. Roommates inadvertently move items or redecorate while your kid is out. It can be pretty frustrating when that Chinese food she was hoping to eat later isn’t there when she gets back. Home represents a comforting constant.
- Privacy. Most dorm experiences seek to build community, and that’s fantastic. But the same elements that contribute to community building—roommates, group activities, communal showers, shared laundry, and uncomfortably thin walls—also mean that privacy is nonexistent. If your kid comes home and immediately locks himself in his room, it’s probably the first time he’s been able to relax without interruption in months. Let him enjoy it for a day or two so that he’s thankful for his space.
- Peace and quiet. The reality of college life is noisy, even if your kid is lucky enough to have considerate roommates. There might be a party happening upstairs, a hallway Frisbee game at midnight, or a neighbor playing video games until three a.m. Chances are good that, unless your kid has rambunctious younger siblings, she’ll relish the opportunity to luxuriate in quiet.
- Creature comforts. Remember buying those twin XL sheets? Few students get truly comfortable on dorm-room mattresses, especially if they’re on the tall end of the spectrum. By the same token, most standard dorm showers are little more than stalls, barely big enough for washing, rinsing, and shaving. (It doesn’t help that you need to wear foot protection and tote your toiletries around, either.) At home, your child can sprawl out on his own bed and take an unhurried shower. College makes kids appreciate the square footage of home.
- Furry friends. Most dorms unilaterally ban pets, with occasional exceptions made for small fish tanks. If your child is close to her dog, cat, bird, or rabbit, she’ll probably be thrilled to spend some time with her friend again. (Your pet will probably be happier, too.)
- Home-cooked meals. While many schools boast nutritious, gourmet meal options, most menus still rotate on a monthly basis, and may not provide the most exciting options for kids on special diets. You know what your child loves, and he’ll be pumped to come home and feast on his favorites. You can build extra cred with your kid (and his friends) by sending care packages, too.
- Built-in nursing. Being sick at school is miserable: your child is suddenly responsible for her own care, including finding transportation to the school infirmary, hospital, or pharmacy. She needs to navigate missed classwork, medication, and cold compresses, all without someone checking up on her. Your child will remember your concern (and chicken soup) with fondness.