Fall term’s drawing to a close on Iowa college campuses and as the students come home for the holidays an educator has a warning for their families. Steve Langerud is an associate dean at Grinnell College who says the family dynamic will be changed. He says there’s more hair and less bathing, he warns, and there’s ravenous appetite, usually for foods they’ve missed. If your kid comes asking for favorite dishes or treats, it may not mean the chow was bad at school — just that they’ve missed familiar “comfort foods.” Langerud calls it a case of “reverse culture shock” as parents and newly-independent kids adjust to each other. You need to change because they’ve changed, compared with the assumption that after their departure you’ll get together with everything the same as it always was — and that’s not the case. Langerud says even talking with your kid will involve different topics than you used to discuss. They’ve been in an environment now where they encounter people from all over the world, listen to music and speakers they never heard before, and they want to talk about that, continue the discourse they started at college. Though the college student is still the child in a family, it’s likely their new maturity will change the family dynamic. He recommends talking about it instead of arguing or stewing in silence. When you talk, it becomes apparent that your child who left comes back as an adult, ready to engage in adult conversations and decisions. Those could include topics from money to curfew, he says. Langerud says while the student is taking on adult appearance and behavior, they’ll always be a member of the family. They really do trust their parents, Langerud says, in spite of what things may seem like. It’s a “primary relationship” and he says they want to renew it, but to take it to the next level. “The task of raising adult children is a new one,” he adds. He says this is an adult that’s in your life, who’s also a child. He often talks with parents who marvel that they didn’t know how much fun their kids were, now they’re a smart interesting young adult and it’s fun to talk wo them. Langerud is associate dean of experiential education at Grinnell, which he describes as helping students make sense out of their education and apply their classroom work to their real-life experience. He says humorously that it answers their parents’ concern that they might move back home after they graduate.
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