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What to Expect When You’re Expecting…Your Student Home for Break!

CIP Break Expectations

Break time at home is often an exciting time filled with fun activities, excursions, family gatherings and quality time. As you anticipate your student’s arrival home for vacation, it is natural to feel anxious about what break time will actually be like. We may hope for a Norman Rockwell painting but sometimes it feels more like an episode of the Simpsons.

Set Expectations

Setting appropriate expectations and boundaries with your student in advance of a long break can help ease anxiety and create a more positive environment so the whole family can enjoy each other. Advance preparation is essential in creating realistic expectations and setting healthy boundaries.

Here are a few changes you may notice when your young adult arrives for their first break home:

  • Increased anxiety
  • Possibility of regression
  • Fatigue
  • Testing limits/argumentative
  • Self-advocating/asserting themselves
  • Social withdrawal

On the positive side, you may also notice:

  • A more mature attitude
  • More household responsibilities/cooking
  • Adult conversation/improved family relationships
  • Compromise and cognitive flexibility
  • Improved social tolerance
  • More confidence

Tips for a Positive Start

Not all students display these behaviors but it is important to note that it’s all part of the maturing process. Even though it may be a challenging time, this is part of a young adult’s process of figuring out who they are in the world and asserting their place in it. That is a positive step toward self-actualization. Here at CIP, most of our first year students are still in the self-awareness stage of their development and it can be demonstrated through some of the frustrating behaviors mentioned above.

Here are tips that will provide you with a few tools to get your family break started on a positive track:

  1. Discuss the positive gains made throughout the semester
  2. Speak to your student's advisor in advance to see how you can support your their progress
  3. Communicate your expectations clearly and never assume
  4. Set clear boundaries on what is acceptable and what is not during their time at home
  5. Have a realistic expectation plan in place and discuss before they get home (include household responsibilities, hygiene, gaming, social expectations, etc.)
  6. Ask if there is anything you need to be aware of BEFORE they come home (are they now vegetarian? Any changes in personal style?)
  7. Set up medical appointments or any other “official” business for break times
  8. Allow time for relaxation and downtime. They may need time to decompress
  9. Discuss setting up volunteer opportunities in your community
  10. Encourage making plans with their friends in advance to help sustain the social thinking skills that they have developed throughout the semester
  11. Keep their wellness in mind throughout the break. Finding local gyms, going on walks and finding physical activities are good ways to keep in shape during their time away from the center. Include them in the process

Use Positive Language

It’s important to remember to always use positive language that has a proactive tone. Family peace is all about compromise! Work together to come up with a plan and resist the urge to “remind” (nag) them if they don’t follow through. You may have to pick your battles and then use that experience as a learning opportunity for the next break. Our students typically mature at a slower rate than their peers so if they are not demonstrating age appropriate behavior yet, they will but it will probably take more time than you would like or expect. Always find opportunities to praise your student on any small gains that you notice. At post-secondary programs like CIP, students work hard to learn the multitude of skills necessary to be independent. Progress may be slow but it is still there.

We are very proud to see our students gain new skills. We hope you enjoy your time during the upcoming break and can celebrate their wonderful progress.

About the Author: Sharona Sommer

Sharona Sommer, CPC is the Director of Family Services at College Internship Program (CIP). After 6 years at CIP, Sharona transitioned to start her own business, Sharona Coaching and Consulting, which provides coaching to families with teens and young adults on the Autism Spectrum. She returned to CIP to serve as Director of Family Services in 2016. Sharona is a Certified Life Coach and graduated with her Special Care Counseling Degree in Montreal, Canada. In addition, Sharona has completed several specialized courses in Asperger’s Studies from Elms College and continually enhances her knowledge through conferences and professional development workshops.

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CIP's full-year postsecondary programs offer individualized college academic, social, career and life skills support for young adults with Autism, ADHD and other Learning Differences. Learn more...

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