With your teen away at boarding school, it can start to feel like you’ve lost some of that closeness you once had. When your teen comes back from boarding school, some stress and anxiety may accompany this occasion.
How can you reconnect with your teen?
What should you expect when he returns home?
How can you make this a comfortable and smooth adjustment for everyone?
You want him home, certainly. His siblings and other family members will also be eagerly anticipating his return. Everyone still may also have concerns about what this return means for the dynamics of the family.
What to expect when your teen comes home
Remember that coming home from a place that has allowed your teen to feel safe and grow while he addressed his mental health can be overwhelming. He may be concerned that he will fall back into old habits and behaviors that may have contributed to him needing to spend time in a boarding school.
He may also be concerned that everyone will treat him once he does get home.
Expect some of the following from him during those first days of adjustment:
- Being withdrawn and not being overly chatty.
- Preferring to sit quietly and read or be on his own instead of participating in family activities.
- Not being as excited to have his friends over as you may have thought he’d be.
- Signs of anxiety and depression, despite being on medication and going to therapy to help work through these mental health concerns.
There may also be a bit more emotion than you expect from your teen. While he may not be angry and lashing out as he did before going to boarding school, you could see him getting frustrated and even crying.
Making the adjustment period better for all
Your teen will struggle with anxiety about going home, but you’ll find that others in the family also likely feel a bit of anxiety and worry about your teen’s return. So, while you need to focus on helping your teen adjust back to life at home, you also need to keep a focus on helping everyone else adjust to having your teen back at home.
Steps you can take to help everyone feel more comfortable:
- Listen to everyone when they voice their concerns. Everyone deserves to be heard in your home.
- Explain to your other children and other household members how your teen may be feeling when he returns home. Help them understand how he may have grown and changed during his time away at boarding school.
- Establishing boundaries and repercussions for breaking the rules of the household that apply to everyone. Your teen shouldn’t feel like he is being singled out for past transgressions. Your other children shouldn’t feel like they are being punished for your returning teen’s past behaviors. Boundaries should be fair and fully understood by everyone.
- Your teen should be getting therapy when he’s home. Ongoing therapy can help to reinforce everything that he learned during his time at boarding school.
- Everyone else in the family should be getting the right type of therapy to help them cope with everything they face. This could also include family therapy so that everyone learns the best ways to communicate and cohabitate while respecting each other’s boundaries.
Family dynamics can be some of the most challenging relationship dynamics you will have to face. Working together with each of your family members will help put every person on the right communication track. It might take some time and result in a few disagreements along the way. However, it will be a journey worth taking with the people you love the most.
Steps to take to reconnect with your teen
You know just how family counseling can help your family members better communicate.
How else can you reconnect with your teenager after he returns home from boarding school?
- Understand and respect his boundaries about spending time with family. He may be hesitant to dive right back into daily family activities.
- Speak with your teen about some of the things that he would like to do with you and other family members. Perhaps he’d love to go fishing with his uncle and cousins? Or maybe he likes the idea of hiking with the family once a week.
- Consider establishing a routine of family-friendly activities once a week. This could include pizza and movie nights on Fridays or perhaps Saturday cookouts in the summertime. These family activities can be a great way to encourage your teen to spend more time with his siblings, talking, laughing, and reestablishing those family connections.
- Ask your teen to work with you on preparing family meals. It may not seem like it, but that time together in the kitchen prepping vegetables and looking up recipes can provide an excellent opportunity for bonding with your teen. It can give him time to think, contemplate, and even open the door for some great conversations.
- Discuss options for family activities or just things the two of you can do together to help you reconnect. Is there a new hobby he’d like to learn more about? You can take a furniture building class at a local lumber supply company or maybe he’s always wanted to learn how to kayak. Involving your teen in planning new adventures can make him feel very much like a part of the family again.
While it would be wonderful to think that your teen will walk back into your home with a refreshed spirit and renewed energy, filled with great anecdotes and conversations, in truth, it may not look like that all for some families.
It might take a fair bit of work together to get your teen feeling a part of the family again and to help each of you reconnect. It’s not going to happen overnight, but it’s worth putting the time and energy into it.
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