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Ground control to undergrad: Prepping your college student for home reentry

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(Read caption) College students reenter the familial home with as much grace as a spaceship returning to Earth.

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If you grew up in the 1960s or 1970s, it seemed like there was a spaceship launch every week. A rocket was followed by a plume of smoke, and off the brave astronauts would go into the unknown, possibly bumping into God.

Launching a spacecraft is one thing. Bringing it safely back to earth is another kind of business. Launch and reentry have been on my mind quite a bit this past month when Anna returned from her first year of college.

As Ken and I launched our girl into higher education last August, the venture made nervous astronauts out of the three of us. It was a bit of a bumpy start, but that did not last too long and soon enough, Anna was orbiting her new world 300 miles away. She had a successful launch and last month, we all had to reverse course for her to reenter our atmosphere.

Depending on your perspective, this return was either a setback or a simple change of venue. I’d say it was a little of both. Just as spacecraft reentry can be a very tricky business, so is getting your college freshman acclimated to home life again. Note that when an object enters the earth’s atmosphere it experiences a few forces, including gravity and drag. Gravity has a natural pull on an object and will cause the object to fall dangerously fast. Think of this as your college freshman reluctantly comes back to home life, reacting to the natural yet disturbing force of your parental gravity.

Moving back home can prove to be a challenge for college students. The earth’s atmosphere contains particles of air that a falling object hits and rubs against as it descends to the earth, causing friction. The object experiences drag or air resistance, which slows it down to a safer entry speed.

You and your returning freshman will have your own version of friction. True enough, your child will experience drag and air resistance, but in the end will not be happy to adjust her life to a safer entry speed. Again, take a lesson from physics in understanding that friction in relationships is, at best, a mixed blessing. In addition to causing drag, it also causes intense heat.


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