I seem to be swimming in re-entry these days. For me, I’ve been struggling with re-entry into blogging. The longer I’ve procrastinated (+time), the more conflict that seems to take place in my mind. You know the kind where you carry on a conversation with yourself . The voices go something like “once I get this done, I’ll go write” or “what I’m doing right now is more important” or “next week I’ll get started again”. Luckily, blogging only involves me, so I can resolve the conflict in my head.
But what happens when re-entry involves those you love?
Perhaps, like me, you’ve just experienced the “re-entry” of your college student. Plastic tubs full of books, winter clothes, and dorm paraphernalia have re-entered your home along with your son who has his own summer plans. And his plans don’t necessarily line up with your expectations.
Or maybe you can’t wait to have your students home from junior high and high school for the summer. Dreaming of blissful summer days, sleeping in, hanging out at the pool with nowhere to be at any specific time. Then the realization hits that your kids have their idea of how summer will go and they are counting on you to be their taxis service every day.
Maybe you have a spouse who travels. Re-entry for my husband and I used to be a rude assault to our marriage. Having hubby gone for days on end, I was trying to meet the needs of everyone at home. Meals, laundry, and car pool for four kids not to mention attempting to keep the house clean. I thought he’d come home, give me a break from the house and kids, and take me for a night out on the town. Instead, he’d come home exhausted and all he wanted to do was rest, enjoy his family, and eat home cooked meals before he headed out of town the following week. Each of our expectations didn’t match reality.
When re-entry begins, there is usually a honeymoon bliss. We’re glad they are home and our kids or husband are glad to be home. Ahh, all is well with the world.
Add time and we come to realize that the other person is not meeting our expectations and the conflict begins. What we sometimes haven’t anticipated is that we have expectations and the person we love also has expectations.
Without an early intervention and a reality check, conflict is bound to rear its ugly head.
So how do you avoid the conflict?
Anticipate. Begin the dialog early. Negotiate. Develop a win-win strategy. Reach agreement.
- Anticipate – Think through what conflicts might surface after re-entry. Try to look at it from your perspective and the other person’s perspective.
- Begin the dialog early – That means before re-entry or as soon as re-entry occurs. Start understanding what you want and they want.
- Negotiate – Talk through each of your expectations and listen. Really listen.
- Develop a win-win strategy – What expectations need to be met and which ones can you let go of so the other person wants to be home with you?
- Reach agreement – Make sure both of you can live with the agreement and ask permission to hold each other accountable.
Here’s a snippet of a recent conversation I just had with my son before and shortly after he came home from college to show you how it works.
“Wow, I can’t believe you’ll be home for the summer in two weeks. As I’ve been thinking about it, I was wondering what you are thinking summer might look like from your perspective. (He shared his plans for the summer). I guess I need to think about how your plans are going to mesh with ours this summer. I was hoping that…(Then I shared how I thought the summer would go). Seems like we have some things to think about before you come home. I’m sure we’ll be able to come up with plans that will work for all of us. Good luck with finals!”
“I’m so glad to have you home. I’ll let you get settled and this evening we’ll talk about our summer to make sure we get off to a good start.”
(Evening dialog). “I know that the transition home is going to be difficult for you. For us. You’ve been on your own at school, doing your own thing without having to necessarily think about how it impacts others. Your dad and I have developed a routine here at home that works while you are gone. Now that you are an adult, I want to help you fit into what’s normal for us. (Then I shared our expectations for him).”
Our son then shared his expectations, we negotiated through them with give and take on both sides, and I told him I would hold him accountable for his responsibilities. I then assured him I was glad he was home.
I’ll admit I was lucky. This child is number 4 so the negotiating was fairly easy. He had seen the scenario play out with his older siblings numerous times.
My attempts with my older children? I didn’t have the dialog soon enough. Yes, there was conflict. Lots of it. Threats of moving out, threats of not coming home the following summer.
My response? “You are an adult now. You make your choices. My goal this summer is to respect you as an adult. But as long you are living with us and we are helping pay for college, my job is to help you become a team player. Those skills will help in your marriage, your job, and any other situation you find yourself in. I love you and I want this to work for both of us. I want us to learn to be friends.”
“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you. You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
Hoping that planning re-entry brings connection with those you love.