Parent Blog

Parenting a college student is a different stage and requires different parenting skills and perspectives. Sarah Butler and occasional guest bloggers will share some insights to help you on the journey. You're not alone!
 

 

"Pondering-in" the New Year

By Sarah Arthur Butler, Parent Council Member

I am introspective by nature. I have learned to appreciate the ability to think deeply as a rich gift--and as a potential stumbling block. Blessings come when thoughtfulness leads me to a deeper understanding of others or when an "aha" moment brings personal growth. However, since reflection is second nature, roadblocks to thinking things through have the potential to launch me into overload mode. 

Christmas brought the contrast into focus this year. This was only the second Christmas in 26 years that didn't require travel across four or more states in winter weather. The lack of white-knuckle driving left me more relaxed, with plenty of time for contemplating the early years with kids. I remembered the challenge, and the overwhelm, of splitting holiday time equitably between two families, juggling naps in a different time zone, and settling toddlers down in unfamiliar beds. I was left with little margin for thinking clearly, let alone being introspective. In comparison, this year I loved being able to worship at my own church, having adult children preparing desserts, and sleeping in just a bit on Christmas morning. Circumstances did not snatch away my ability to savor the moment. The day was still and spacious enough to have time to think--even ponder over the events that were unfolding.

In meditating on the familiar story in Luke chapter 2, one Mary-moment captured my attention in a new way this year. It struck me that the precious little family experienced the antithesis of a quiet Christmas. Mary and Joseph didn't have a choice but to travel under the worst of circumstances. Grossly pregnant, the conditions were anything but comfortable for Mary and when they finally arrived, the accommodations were far from luxurious. The bed was worse than unfamiliar--it was miserably non existent! Mary faced fear alongside excrutiating pain, with no medical attention, unsanitary conditions, and only Joseph to care for her needs in childbirth. I imagine the cries of a first-time mother in labor, followed by the wailing of her newborn catching his first breath, and joined by a great company of noisy angels, filling the night sky with such a cacophony that the shepherds were driven to join the commotion. In my mind's eye I see these raggamuffin strangers showing up in the middle of the night, contributing to these most unusual circumstances. And yet, Luke tells us in Chapter 2, verse 19, that in response to all this revelry, "Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. In the midst of it all, she sought a quiet space in her soul for reflection.

I realized that Mary was a deliberately and intensely thoughtful woman. She could have been easily overwhelmed by the circumstances, but because she knew that the Lord was not only the orchestrator of the event but also resting in her arms, she could be fully present to drink in the wonder of the moment, lock in those memories, and ponder that the God of creation chose her to parent this most precious of babes. She met the intensity of the events at hand with the intentionality of her introspection.

New Year's Eve found me celebrating the wedding of my dearest friend's daughter. I enjoyed the privilege of lending a hand in the preparations and noted the giant collection of noise makers that would be used to ring-in the New Year. Even with a boisterous band turning up the tunes and guests blowing horns, we couldn't have even come close to what the angels must have sounded like. And yet, more than once, I caught a glimpse of the mother and father of the bride capturing a quiet moment to dwell richly in the full meaning and splendor of this once-in-a-lifetime event.
 
I certainly can't hold a candle to Mary, and I didn't just pull off a family Christmas celebration and my daughter's wedding in the same week. In fact, I needed a quiet Christmas to be able to focus on--and to ponder--the Lord's gifts to me in this moment in time. Chief amongst them are my two adult children, whose thoughtfulness this Christmas was quite remarkable. It's tempting to think that the parenting milestones to celebrate are all behind us, but I speculate that each upcoming year has the potential to be transformational. My children's arrival into adulthood might bring the necessity of travel at Christmas or there might be new people at my table soon! Now it is their turn to settle into the years with the biggest decisions of their lives--choosing where to work, finding a place to live, discovering if there would be a marriage partner or children, and discerning how to serve others with their gifts and talents. I feel convicted to pray--again--about growing in my role as a mom of grown children.

I'm hoping that despite the commotion of the new year, I'll be able to truly focus on the Lord at work in and through my now-adult children. Rather than miss the years gone by, I'm taking a cue from Mary to treasure the moments, be fully present wherever I am, and pray for a peaceful heart so I can be fully aware of the Lord at work in my circumstances. I don't need more revelry to "ring-in" 2017. I am resolving, instead, to "ponder-in" the new year.
 

 

LIVING THROUGH...

By Sarah Arthur Butler, Parent Council Member

We have witnessed a remarkable fall season in Minnesota with record-breaking warmth.  It only took us 116 years to beat our record!  For goodness sakes, William McKinley was president the last time we had a first frost this late in the season.  My garden clean-up was finished before snowfall for the first time in years and my son volunteered to get the Christmas lights up when he could still accomplish the task in shirtsleeves!  I couldn’t imagine a more glorious fall…until I read another perspective.  Brad Hawthorne, an ice fishing guide on Lake of the Woods along the Canadian border was featured in a Pioneer Press article titled “Minnesota’s Outdoors Businesses Sweating.” Brad reported that last winter he was still running boats on open water mid-December and rescheduling ice-fishing reservations to post-Christmas dates.  This promises to be another season of losses for Brad.  From his point of view, the extended warmth is a cause for concern, not celebration. With a livelihood tied to cold-weather sports, no winter means no paycheck.

“It’s all a matter of perspective” is true for more than the seasonal weather. Our remarkable fall also collided with a challenging election season and an unusual season opening for the Vikings. Both voter and fan responses ranged from elation to agony.  Regardless of your favorite weather, who you voted for, or whether you are a Vikings fan, we’ve all lived through each of those events—just not all in the same way.  Depending on our personal circumstances, our approach to any season, including the seasons in our lives, can be entirely different.

Sometimes living through events can be mostly about survival. When living joins the preposition through, as in “to get past or beyond,” (thank you Dictionary.com) our goal is to press hard to the escape hatch. That approach might epitomize your Thanksgiving with extended family, your current job, or your battle with a serious illness.  I admit that when facing the greatest challenges of my life, it has been my first instinct to put my head down and barrel through.  How often I have prayed, “Lord, just give me what it takes to get through this one!”  What’s sad for me is that this tough-it-out mentality has sometimes applied to seasons with my kids when I might have looked at life from a different perspective. To live through two-year-old tantrums was, at times, all about endurance and not enough about enjoying this fleeting time with my children.  Getting to the other side of my son’s recovery from major jaw surgery was pretty humorless, when in hindsight there was a lot of laughable moments in his 12 weeks of liquid meals.  Living through unemployment with a tuition bill for college often meant being scrappy and resourceful instead of taking advantage of the opportunity to pray with my young man about watching for God’s provision.  There are times I could have chosen a better approach.

From a different vantage point, it can also be far too easy to live through our children as if their lives are the center of our own.  This is where dad’s dreams of baseball get lived out in pressure for his son to play. This is where mom’s healing from mean-girl bullying puts too much focus on her daughter’s social status. This is where past regrets about not applying ourselves in school turns into hounding our students about their academic performance.  This is where living joins the adverb through, defined as “having no interruption, obstruction, or hindrance,” which suggests a continuous (maybe too pervasive?) presence in our children’s lives.  When we choose this approach, we risk setting ourselves up for disappointment when our students remove themselves from the center of our attention.  After a season of independence on campus, they are likely to be looking forward to less relational dependency. I’m conscious as Christmas approaches, that if we are living through our kids in this sense, we may have unrealistic expectations for their engagement with us over the holidays.
 
Is there a more positive way to live through? I recently expressed to my son that I am not interested in living my life waiting for the tough part to be over—for either of us.  Living through does not have to be about just getting to the other side of his challenges—or mine.  Neither am I inclined to hold either of us back by holding on too tight.  Living through does not need to mean that I derive my success or satisfaction from my children’s life choices.  Life is happening NOW, and regardless of the circumstances, today is the day I am living in—and living it in my own skin. What if I choose a perspective that allows living to happen in the same space with through, as in “thoroughly; through the whole extent of; in all respects; from beginning to end”?
 
What I aspire to is living, in relationship with my kids, through whatever circumstances life is presenting to us today.  I am choosing to offer (rather than impose) my presence in supporting my children’s passions and healing from their pain. I hope to invite realistic expectations to live alongside my investment in the present moment.  When the election threatens to divide our country, I want to be fully present, praying for God’s hand at work in all circumstances, not waiting for it to be over. I want season tickets to the game whether my team is winning or losing. When Christmas comes, I will be fully present for whatever time we are together so I don’t miss the joy in living through this season with my family.

 

 

PRECIOUS OR PRIVILEGED?

By Sarah Arthur Butler, Parent Council Member

One of the most salient memories of our parenting journey is the day our children walked into our lives. Whether by birth or adoption, foster care, or spiritual parenting, the impression is lasting, the images are indelible and our instincts tell us this is one of the most important people that we’ll ever walk alongside. The day my daughter was born, I clearly recall thinking she was beautiful. Not just lovely, but stunning. Captivating. Scientists may tell you that a good portion of the beautiful baby delusion was chemical. Nonetheless, I thought she was magically more marvelous than any of the other babies in the nursery. Because she belonged in my family, I know that my sense of her preciousness was heightened. Because she was place by God in my care, my protective instincts were also elevated.

So it’s no surprise then, that other parents feel the same way about their children. All of our children are precious and to be protected. To some that also translates into privileged. If my child is special, shouldn’t she have the best of everything the world has to offer? If my child is that special, shouldn’t he be spared that expectation? If my child is so special, shouldn’t she be sheltered from that hardship?

The irony can be that children who are overprotected are also often underprepared. The Blog of the Institute of Family Studies article by Jeffrey Dill (April 8, 2014) cited a UCLA study of family life demonstrating that 90% of children’s leisure time is now spent inside. “Children’s worlds are both contracting and moving indoors,” said Dill. Parents perceive the outside world to be far more dangerous today than when they were children. The IFS Blog highlighted a UK study that followed four generations of a single family, demonstrating a “contracting radius of freedom.”  As an 8-year-old in 1926, the great-grandfather walked six miles to a favorite fishing hole--unsupervised. In 2007, his 8-year old great-grandson was only free to walk alone about 300 yards to the end of the block. 

The impact of media coverage of tragedies like Jacob Wetterling’s abduction have a dual impact. Crime statistics in recent years show dramatic declines in child abduction and sexual abuse due to heightened awareness and advocacy. However, our perception of present danger has also been elevated. Myth or not, what we perceive is our reality, with real consequences. Practiced perceptions, even if they are flawed, direct our parenting decisions. Despite our value for our kids’ autonomy, we can end up creating dependence. We can be both the parent that wants responsible children and the one who won’t allow our students the freedom to make their own decisions.

Just like flawed perceptions start with at least a kernel of reality, spiritual myths also include an element of truth that can powerfully affect our decisions. Have you ever heard that the center of God’s will is the safest place to be? Could we define “safe” before we run with that? It has not been my experience that spiritual safety always extends to emotional security or physical protection. Can we also define “precious” carefully?  My kids are priceless to me.  Nothing could be more true—or could it? The fact that they are of ultimate value to God is even more true.  f we are precious to God, it’s His will that we be prepared well for the challenges we will face so that we can stand firm on the King’s agenda. We’re more likely to face the spiritual battles than be spared from them. In fact, being in the center of His will may be a very dangerous place--in the earthly sense. Roaming outside the “safe” zone might be what’s needed to expand our students’ radius of influence. Facing peril, with spiritual armor in place, might just be what keeps the precious from perishing.  
It’s an honor to serve the King of Kings.  It isn’t a role for the pampered. How can we, as parents, love our children fully, believe in their uniqueness, and foster their individuality, without setting them up on a pedestal? What helps our students understand the difference between being special and being set apart? My friend Kristin’s Dad is a fourth grade teacher, who routinely shares with his students that they are not special. That sounds strange in today’s culture, doesn’t it? But he delivers that message in a way that helps his students understand the difference between their rights and their value. He is actually setting them up for success by helping them see others as valuable, too. They are learning the difference between being privileged and being precious.

My son recently blessed me by sharing that among the critical lessons he has learned from me, “the value of every life” is at the top of the list. It blesses me beyond words for him to share his heart. I also believe that some of the more-than-I-would-ever-choose-for-him challenges he has faced have helped him live out this truth. As painful as it can be to see him fight the battles, his growth in wisdom and compassion continues to convince this Mama that her six foot “baby” is incredibly precious.
 

Do Over, Do Better

By: Sarah Arthur Butler, Parent Council Member

Walking on the Northwestern campus this week, I had a flashback to my own college days.  The image was as much heart as it was head.  It was more than just a memory of what it felt like to be 18. I had a visceral sensation of what it felt like to have my sense of “I can do this” competing with my “Can I really do this?” The certainty about my goals lived parallel to the questions about whether I had made the right choices.  The thrill of what was ahead was shadowed by the fear of what might come.  But I also recall no desire to go back. 

It strikes me that I don’t feel that way anymore.  With more of life’s decisions behind me than ahead of me, sometimes the desire for a “do over” outweighs the satisfaction of a “done with that.” I have a sweet friend who is decades younger than I am. As newlyweds, she and her husband had goals of professional degrees eventually applied in missions.  Three moves, two kids, health interruptions and a boatload of debt later, neither one of them are currently pursuing the fields they anticipated.  It’s too late to go back and choose differently.  Because of their faith, they are trusting God to use the disappointment and challenge for good, maybe even applying their training in ways they can’t yet anticipate.  However, I’m sure she dreams of the DO OVER.

Sometimes the desire for a fresh start comes from a moment in time that seems minor to others but major to us. I have a crystal clear recollection of what it felt like to unintentionally send a sensitive email to the wrong person. I’m sure many of us have spoken out of anger to those we love most instead of holding our tongues.  We’ve asked ourselves “Could I have that moment back?” We would like the chance to DO BETTER.  Sometimes it’s more monumental.  Those of us who have invested our time in a business that went belly up or said yes to a job that ended up in a dead end, ask ourselves, “What if I could have that decision back?”  Others of us who have experienced the pain of infidelity have wondered if there were something we could have done to change the outcomes. The lurking question is “What if I could have those years back?” As believers, we have assurance that God can make beauty out of the ashes of failed choices, failed business decisions, and failed marriages. However, we can’t help but wonder if picking up the pieces would have been necessary if we had been brave enough to make a different choice when doubt was hovering.
 
Why then, do we question our students when they want to make a different choice?  Let’s admit that when they don’t finish what they started, we tend to see them as lazy. We lean first toward seeing them as quitters when they leave a miserable job or want to change their major.  Unfortunately, we are prone to putting our practicality ahead of their bravery.  How does our lens become focused on the time and tuition that might result rather than looking at how God might be at work in their lives?
 
It’s our nature to come to conclusions.  There’s a process in our brains that compensate for the physical blind spot in our vision using surrounding details to create a complete picture. Just like the holes in our vision get filled in, our understanding gets filled in, too.  Our brains are masterful at filling in the blanks so we don’t perceive the blind spot in our vision—or see that we may have gaps in our understanding.  I wonder if our own experiences lead us to fill in conclusions about our children.  For example, if I never changed my major, it is natural to deduce that my son, who has switched multiple times, is indecisive.  If I stuck it out in a tough job and it paid off, my daughter who wants to quit a stressful job without another in hand is taking too many risks.  If I had the disappointment of a failed relationship, my child’s dating choices are going to fall under great scrutiny.
 
How can we look at our students’ need for DO OVERS through the Lord’s lens rather than through our own experiences? Can we put ourselves in their shoes instead of our own?  Can we ask them to tell us about their choices instead of tell them who they are based on our experience?  We all want to be known and loved.  Knowing requires asking.  When your freshman says his roommate is not working out, try asking what’s not working before drawing conclusions.  When your sophomore wants to change her major for the third time, try asking how she is approaching the decision and offer to look at the ramifications together (more student loans?) before jumping to judgment.  When your junior is staring down an opportunity for missions competing with his long-standing summer job, offer to be a prayer partner before over-focusing on the practical.  When your senior is talking about dropping her graduate school plans because she thinks she has met the man she is going to marry, asking to meet her fella is likely more effective than rejecting the most important person in her life at the moment.
 
When I look back on the DO OVER moments of my life, minute or monumental, I also see that one of three critical elements was missing.  I may see in hindsight that my walk with the Lord was in a dry spell and I failed to fully submit my decisions to Him in prayer.  At other times, I was failing to abide in the Word and didn’t see all the encouraging examples in Scripture of how He turns perceived disasters into His victories.  Lastly, I failed to seek the wisdom of those who knew me well and offered a Christ centered perspective on my journey.  I hope one of the DO BETTERS for me now is to grow in my role as an “elder at the gate” for my family.  I hope to earn my children’s trust as a prayer warrior on their behalf, have the opportunity to direct them to the Word as they seek wisdom, and be seen as a safe place to seek counsel.  When I’m trusted to help with the DO OVERS, I want to DO BETTER.

 

 

I BELONG

By: Sarah Arthur Butler, Parent Council Member

Surely we have something in common.  We are all human.  We all begin life as infants, breathe air, and bathe sometimes (at least I hope we do).  You get my point. But there’s something in us that longs to do more than just “be” or even be alike. We want to belong. We belong to families, music groups, and clubs.  We identify ourselves as fans of a particular team, residents of a particular city, and members of a particular church. We label ourselves to fit with an age group, a special interest, and our political persuasion (well, maybe not this year).  We drift toward those who are similar to us.  We revel in knowing where we fit. 

I can’t help but think about our new and newly-returned students on campus, finding their place in class, their place at the table, and their role on the team. They are looking for the “I belong” experience at Northwestern. As parents, we want that for our students, too.  What happens then, if your student is the only international student on their floor, the lone tuba player in the band, or has yet to meet any other students from a single-parent home?  What if they don’t know anyone else who struggles with mental health, thinks they are the only one who has survived cancer, or imagines they are the only one who has never had a roommate? 

If I can’t find “my people” I’m resigned to being “different.” I don’t fit.  If everyone else has a date and I don’t, it’s hard not to see myself as left behind.  I don’t have to wait for others to label me as a misfit.  It is as if I’m already filling out my own nametag.  If I don’t get along with my roommates, I label myself “odd man out.”  We can be experts at inventing our own isolation.

If the Trinity is our example, we were not meant to function alone.  I do believe that we are created for relationship.  Moses would have been lost without Aaron.  Adam celebrated the gift of a spouse.  However, while Genesis tells us “it is not good for man to be alone,” God was not implying that He intended us to be clones.  We were created by the Creator as unique creations. 

For just a moment, I'm not thinking of our college students' experience.  Instead, I am contemplating third grade all over again.  That was when my daughter Rachel decided she was ready to try a stringed instrument.  Her friend, Elianna, played with the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphony (GYCYS).  My daugther wanted to belong to that group.  Her new music teacher, Mrs. Clem, offered her a taste of all the stringed instruments.  When it was time to choose, Rachel asked the question I anticipated.  "What is everybody else playing?" she asked.  I remember thinking, "I knew it. She needs to belong."  Mrs. Clem replied with a head count for each instrument…and that there was something missing in her group of students.  Rachel surprised me with her answer.  “I want to play the viola because nobody has chosen that yet.” She understood that finding her fit did not mean she had to give up her uniqueness.

As both a staff member and a mom, I am encouraged to pray that our students will discover how their individuality contributes to our community at Northwestern.  I see that UNW is prepared to embrace our students’ differences AND help them see where they fit.  There is an understanding that the orchestra offers a richer sound with the full range of instruments and there are faculty ready to train both the tubas and the violas.  There are support staff who see God’s unique design and are ready to applaud your student’s bravery in the face of disability (DOSS), survivor instincts in the midst of family crisis (Counseling Center), and determination in the face of academic struggle (CAPPS).  There are coaches (Eagle Athletics) and career professionals (Center for Calling and Career) to help them find their best fit on in their passions and professions.  UNW is especially equipped to embrace our students’ uniqueness because the faculty and staff already understand that they are a diverse collection of individuals who find unity in Christ Himself. Scripture says, “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12).  As a parent, I’m thrilled that our students have the opportunity to be a part of a community of believers where they all can say, “I BELONG.”

 

MAKE A DIFFERENT CHOICE

By Sarah Arthur Butler, Parent Council Member

August angst is rapidly approaching.  It makes its appearance when the calendar creeps toward the opening day of school.  Those of you with students at home are well acquainted with the wee-bit-guilty feeling that you are actually eager for school to start again.  You’ve heard “I’m bored” once too often and had enough of the “I’m sure I know better than you” attitude from your young adults.  You are reaching your summer saturation point and it has nothing to do with the humidity. For those preparing for a first launch to college, there may be a growing annoyance that your son or daughter seems a little too eager to leave the nest (why aren’t they feeling melancholy like me?) or too reluctant to take the next step (why does that make me feel inadequate?).  Enjoying what’s left of summer becomes a challenge when you realize that there’s just not enough time to squeeze in all you intended with your students before campus life takes over. Honestly, we’re getting a little grumpy!  My son is quick to remind me that when he was a youngster experiencing a sour attitude, my standard response was, “Make a different choice.”  Shaking off a dark mood isn’t easy.  We quickly fall victim to our feelings. We may not recognize that our emotions are often the by-product of our choices Have you ever noticed that people who expect to have a bad day usually do?  Or that people who are deliberately watching for God at work seem to always have a “praise report”? Psalm 100:4 says, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.” Is it any wonder that joy seems more accessible when we intentionally focus on blessings—even in the midst of difficulty? 

I had the privilege of working with a gal for more than 10 years who is genuinely effervescent.  She is carbonation personified.  Bubbly.  Vivacious.  Full of contagious joy.  She consistently approached challenging circumstances with an expectation of seeing God at work, as if the blessing was already in view.  Her choice to look at life with a CAN DO instead of a CANNOT perspective set an example that still has a powerful impact on me. People I gravitate to are those with a positive influence on me and I am not alone. In author Henry Cloud’s Wall Street Journal bestseller, The Power of the Other, he brings evidence from neuroscience to support the startling effect other people have on our lives.  Dr. Cloud uses cutting edge research to prove that outstanding performance relies on choosing the right relationships.  Professionally and personally--whether we’re a Navy SEAL, a veteran executive, or a new recruit at UNW--the influence of others is inevitable.

Pardon me, but as good as Dr. Cloud’s book is, parents and guardians are already experts on this universal truth. We have seen it lived out in our homes. We know that our little ones will likely fear storms if we do.  If we let them help with home repairs, we know they will be more confident with tools.  And, if we are chronic complainers, we see them adopt our negative perspective. We hear our own attitudes coming back to us out of their mouths—and sometime demonstrated by a pouty lower lip. Is it any different with our young adults? 

The truth is that our kids are stuck with us…and our influence.  They don’t get to choose their relationship with us. They get the worst of us and the best by default. There have been days when I pleaded with the Lord, “forgive me for the baggage I gave my kids today” and other days where I’ve praised God that I got to parent them through a crisis to help them be overcomers.  So my question for us is this: What messages from us, like-it-or-not, do they take with them when they return to campus?  Are they positive and empowering? Are the frustrations I’m rehearsing in my head affecting my influence?

When my children hear the echo of my voice saying, “Make a different choice,” are they hearing a reprimand for a sour attitude or an encouragement to be courageous in the face of our culture? Does the lasting mom-message remind them to just “buck up” or that they can be overcomers?  When I don’t have a consistent, daily presence, will my influence still equip my children to have a positive impact in their world? Do we need to ask the Lord to help us put August angst in check so we can be intentional about spending our last stretch of summer sending CAN DO instead of CANNOT messages? In preparing for college, a great attitude might be the very best thing we help our students pack.

Thank you, Lord, for reminding me that August still counts in the lasting impact I have on the young adults you gave me to influence.  Help me to model what it looks like to choose my attitude and be deliberate about entering into your joy.  

 

REFRAMING EXPECTATIONS  

By Sarah Arthur Butler, Parent Council Member

Our image of “happy ending” for our students might look like a job in their field after college graduation, a home of their own, and debt-free living.  However, our expectations don’t always match up with reality. In reality most will need to work their way up to their dream job rather than starting out in it.  And, statistics show they will likely manage college debt by returning home following graduation, at least for a time.  If the picture in the frame doesn’t look like we first imagined, can we still envision a happy ending?


Navigating around disappointment is easier if our expectations are realistic.  According to a 2015 survey conducted by Upromise (the savings division of the student lender, Sallie Mae), 68% of students expect to be supported financially to some degree by their parents after graduation. Nearly half are also realistic about paying rent to live at home! The good news is that parent and student attitudes are remarkably well aligned.  The survey revealed that 65% of parents are now expecting to offer financial support for up to five years after graduation.  The challenging news for parents may be that live-at-home graduates has become a typical way to offer support. The norm for post-graduation living arrangements today is not what I experienced when it was my turn, but does that mean it’s a bad thing? While sharing a home again may not appear to be “living the dream,” the Upromise survey demonstrates that parents and students today are growing in their ability to reframe reality. 


The concept of reuse-repurpose applies a fresh perspective on something old or familiar, and crafts it into something new—and sometimes better than before.  I have a striking pendant made from a refashioned antique fork.  A pot of flowers sits where the seat used to be in a repurposed chair on my front porch. Recently, I saw old picture frames laid flat and reconstructed into serving trays.  That reminded me that reframing expectations requires creative thinking to bring positive outcomes, too. 

 

The University of Minnesota Parents Program looked into the phenomenon of “boomerang families” and discovered that while there are certainly challenges, there are also things to appreciate when a fresh perspective is applied.  What if our concept of “success” is reframed?  Instead of defining a student’s success as living on his or her own, what if a solid plan for repayment of student debt was the primary target?  After all, a graduate who is financially smart and responsible is a great outcome! What if we reframed “moving home” as an opportunity to rebuild our relationships as adults?  It can be rewarding to have an opportunity to establish a more equal, adult relationship with our graduates. What if a live-at-home adult son/daughter provides added support for us and an extra pair of hands? My son is committed to helping construct a bedroom/bathroom in the basement for his use.  With his help at home, we will both benefit from the upgrade. The U of M Parent Program survey revealed that more than half of the parent respondents saw benefits in having their students home again.

 

My daughter reshaped reality for me when she moved home after graduating from college.  The delightful surprise was that I enjoyed her adult company even more than I anticipated.  The real disappointment was when she wanted to move out so she could be, in her words, a “real adult”!  My son is still living at home and I appreciate that he takes out the trash and mows the yard without being asked. The road to independent living is slower than either of us expected but I’m determined to reframe my expectations and enjoy the journey!  


Lord, help me make the most of the time I still have with my young adult in my home to grow our relationship. Thank you for shared meals, game nights, and deep conversations. I’m grateful that my adult child can search for a job with less financial pressure. Thank you, too, for challenging me to grow in my attitude…rethinking changes and finding new ways to parent.  Help me continue to have opportunities to teach adult-level skills and provide opportunities for my son/daughter to be a true contributor in our home.  Provide insight on how to balance boundaries with the mutual respect and independence that we need to achieve.  Thank you for helping me reframe my expectations.