Q: Should parents let their children who are away at college come home for a visit during the pandemic?
A: If you mean coming home for a weekend, the answer is no. If you mean a longer visit, then we give a qualified yes — the qualification being that they quarantine for 14 days when they arrive home.
Even if the student has recently tested negative for COVID-19, we recommend they still quarantine when they return home because there is going to be some time lapse following the test results. This might seem harsh, but it’s just a matter of being cautious. When you’re in college, the incidence of other classmates having underlying conditions is lower. While they are at home, the chances are much higher that they will come in contact with people with pre-existing medical conditions.
And if they do come home, they need to stay at home, not go out to meet up with friends at bars.
DR. CHRISTOPHER COLBERT, assistant emergency medicine residency director and professor of clinical emergency medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago
A: I think the most important thing in that situation is to have really clear communication between the parent and the child. It’s vital to be able to know your own personal boundaries, and oftentimes within families, those things can get messy and complicated. Before entering into that conversation, know what you’re comfortable with, and use “I” statements because it’s an easy way to be clear about your expectations.
If the child wants to come home, but you don’t feel comfortable with that, make sure that your son or daughter understands that your reluctance has nothing to do with your relationship with them, It’s more about respecting boundaries and respecting what people need to feel safe.
You can say something like: “I love you. I wish I could see you. And because you’re able to have this experience at college, and you’re out and having more exposure than we’re used to, I want to be really clear about my expectations for when you do come back for a longer visit. Let’s have these precautions set in place, so that I would be able to actually enjoy and focus on our time together rather than be worried.”
Having a plan in place will reduce anxiety because expectations will have been made clear without the added level of stress. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s to be resilient.
MARYJANE REILLY, licensed professional counselor at Clarity Clinic, Chicago