A podcast listener recently contacted me for some relationship advice. She asked, “Our son, who just started his freshman year of college, is coming home for the weekend, and I wonder if you have any suggestions for how my husband and I should relate to him?” I do. It's to apply the ORA principle. Observe. Remember. Act

I know some of the rest of you are facing this same issue now, or have already dealt with it, or may soon face it in the next 2 to 18 years. It’s a relationship issue where we can apply the ORA principle. Observe – Remember – Act.


Let’s start with Observe. To our listener, I would ask, what have you observed about your son that makes him enjoy life? What things bring him joy when he’s with your family? What are the things you think he looks forward to?

Are there  things he dreads? You know, this is the question we’ve been asking in the past several episodes.

Most importantly, Observe what’s going on within YOU. Do you see any tendency you may have to use your son to meet your emotional needs? If you’re still grieving his leaving home, don’t do it in front of him.


I would also figuratively scratch your head to try and remember what it was like when YOU came home from college for the first time.

  • What did YOU look forward to in returning home? What did YOU dread?
  • I know you’re a different person than your son, but brought YOU joy in coming home?
  • Remember, going away to college is a more significant change for your son than it is for you
  • Remember your son is in that transition phase between teenager and young adult. Focus on the latter, not the former
  • Remember that even though your son may have had a great deal of independence before he left home for college, the independence he has now is different. It’s more pronounced. He’s become used to making his own decisions without input from you
  • Remember that every parent's job is to raise their child to be an independent, well-functioning adult and member of society. So embrace his newfound independence with him.

Based on what you have observed about your son. And what you remember what it was like for you when you came home from college, take some kind of action

  • Make coming home as pleasant an experience as possible. Create positive memories for your son.
  • Spend less time telling him what to do and more time listening.
  • The most important action you can take is to ask your son what he would like to do when he comes home for the weekend. Go to an event? Meet with friends. Sleep and veg out? Work on his college homework?
  • Set aside your own needs and plan for a few days
  • Let your son fill his schedule for the weekend.
  • Ask if he’d like to bring a friend home with him
  • Celebrate this new chapter of his life. Ask about his classes, which one he likes and those he isn’t too fond of.
  • Act by holding back advice unless you’re asked for it
  • Avoid saying, “If I were you, I would….” Instead, ask, “How are you going to deal with that? What are you going to do?”
  • Make it a joy-filled weekend for your son.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit ways you can best interact with your son. He’ll show you
  • Speak your son’s love language
  • Please don’t give him chores to do. Instead, ask him as a favor as you would a friend. “Would you mind doing me a favor and (insert verb phrase)”
  • Say “yes,” more than you say “no.”
What if you don’t have kids in college?

So what about the rest of us who don’t have children in college. Yet. Some day you might, and it’s not too early to prepare for that possibility. If I had young kids at home, even toddlers, I would develop my observation skills about my kids.

Pay attention to their love language, discover what makes them tick. Help them to move from one stage of childhood to the next level. The skills you develop doing this will come in handy when they leave and then return home from college. Or from their factory job from another part of the country. Or from the military.

If you don’t have any children, or If you’re past this stage of life and your kids have all left home, think about your friends in the throes of launching their children into the world. Reach out to them. Ask how they’re dealing with this new chapter in their life.

And please listen to episode 69, “When Our Kids Go Off to School for the First Time,” especially if you have friends with children heading to kindergarten or off to college.

The main point from today’s episode

Here’s the main point I hope you remember from today’s episode:

Apply the ORA principle in your relationships with your kids returning home from college. Observe. Observe what’s going on inside of you, and the emotions you feel when your child comes home for the weekend. Remember. Remember what it was like for you when you were away from home for a while, and then returned. Remind yourself to treat him like an adult. Act. Ask him what he wants to do or not do. Let him call the shots, not you.

I’d love to hear any thoughts you have about today’s episode. Just send them to me in an email to john [at] caringforothers [dot] org. Or you can share your thoughts in the “Leave a Reply” box at the bottom of the show notes.

I’d love to hear any other relationship questions you may have. Just send them my way, and we’ll tackle them together.

Related episodes you may want to listen to

069: When Our Kids Go Off to School for the First Time

Four episodes that address in more detail the ORA principle:

88: Get Them to Say “Thank You for Asking”
89: How to Be a Better Observer of People
93: Remembering Deepens Our Relationships
96: Meaningful Questions Create Meaningful Relationships


In closing, if you found this podcast helpful, please subscribe wherever you get your podcasts if you haven’t already done so.

I hope today’s show stimulated your thinking about how you can apply the ORA principle with your young adult children or any relationship for that matter. All so that you will find the joy God intends for you through your relationship with them.Because after all, You Were Made for This.

Well, that’s all for today.

I look forward to connecting with you again next week. Goodbye for now.

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