College students are home. But unlike the holidays or summer break, this time at home is unexpected and comes with a loss of independence, outside restrictions and a switch to remote learning. 

At their universities, students have been making decisions for themselves 24/7. So don’t be surprised if having your student back under your roof requires some adjustments.

How should families navigate the challenges that occur when their student returns home unexpectedly? We asked a cross section of students at St. Edward’s ― from freshmen to seniors ― for their advice to parents on setting practical expectations. And we asked our faculty experts how parents can help their students navigate the switch to remote learning (when everyone in the family is using the same WiFi). Here are their tips for getting through this time. 

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1. Be flexible.

Your college student’s daily routine (sleeping, eating, studying, relaxing) will be different and may not align with the family routine. Adjusting to your student being back home requires flexibility and patience. Allow students to pursue the routine they desire, but don’t hesitate to ask about how classes are going, how they’re connecting with friends and what they miss from campus. Eventually, you’ll find the right balance that works for you and your student.

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2. Encourage students to maximize time online.

If everyone in the family is on video calls and WiFi bandwidtch is at a premium, encourage students to go directly to the course assignments for that day — if the directions include readings or responding to an assignment, capitalize that time to access the directions, write them down and complete the work offline. Students can also collaborate with classmates via telephone, and professors are an email or phone call away to clarify what the assignments and expectations are. 

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3. Allow conversations to flow naturally.

Have a conversation with your student without pressuring them to tell you everything at once. The more natural the discussions and light-hearted the questions, the less it will feel like an interrogation on every detail of their life. Talk about yourselves and the family rather than focusing all of your attention on them. If a more important and lengthy family discussion is necessary, plan it over a meal, and let your student know ahead of time what you want to discuss.

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4. Adjust responsibilities.

It’s reasonable for parents to expect their student to help out, do their own laundry or keep their bedroom in order. But don’t expect them to automatically assume the same chores and responsibilities they had while living at home, such as housework, preparing meals or looking after younger siblings. Have a conversation about what you expect — and what you need during this time — to keep the house running with the entire family home and working. 

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5. Share this one piece of advice with your student.

If you share one piece of advice with your student about remote instruction, it would be: Do not get behind. Missing even two days of class online creates an almost insurmountable hurdle for catching up and staying ahead of the work. Students sometime misunderstand that having online assignments means more free time; actually, just the opposite may be true. Because the professors feel compelled to cover all of the content that is required for the course — and because no face-to-face instruction provides for that delivery, the responsibility moves to the online format to provide that content, and that means more study time not less.

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6. We are all in this together.

For many professors, teaching online is as new —or newer — for them as it is for the students. As long as students make the good faith effort to complete the work, seek out alternative access whenever they do not have it at home, and stay in communication with their professors, university staff and professors will work to a positive outcome for everyone. The important for students to remember: Stay calm. Reach out to professors, academic advisors or other contacts from the university to find solutions. We are all in this together.