It's the season for those of us with college students who've been away at school to welcome them home. Our almost 19 year old daughter arrived home last week. At my counseling practice in Newport Beach, California, I've been getting calls and meeting with parents and families about managing the transition well of having an adult son or daughter home for a few months.
About the time school is out in late May or June, students had adjusted nicely to their greater independence, living in dorms or apartments, managing their own schedules, and enjoying the fun of having their friends around all the time. Similarly, by late spring, parents have also let go and adjusted to less regular parenting tasks.
Parents have questions. Here are some I'm fielding:
Should I set a curfew?
What if they want to sleep until 2:00p.m. everyday?
What's fair to ask them to do with their room or household chores?
Can I expect them to earn some of their own spending money, or to save some towards their own fall college expenses?
Entrances and exits from the family system are both situations that take adjustments. Give your son or daughter a few days to get caught up on sleep after their finals and moving home. Then it may be a very good idea to have lunch or dinner with them and talk together about the adjustments that you each need to make while they're home to make it a successful summer for all of you.
I don't recommend giving curfews to college students who have already been living on their own. That would be like going backwards and they'd resent it, and you'd be fighting all summer. However, I do feel it's okay to ask them to be reasonable, not have overnight guests without your permission, and to ask for your son or daughter to be very quiet after the older generation goes to sleep, and about what time that is. It's also okay to ask for no midnight laundry, or showering, blow-drying or loud music after a certain hour. While all those things are probably common at school, you just need to ask for respect for quiet times you need at the house.
It's also perfectly okay to ask your son or daughter about their summer plans. They may already be working on it, but, if not, you can tell them you want them to be productive over the summer and look for work or enroll at your local community college for some summer credits, or both. Don't give them so much money that they don't need to work, or you are a part of the problem of their stagnation.
Make a list of household and outside tasks that you normally do, and ask them if they could please help this summer by picking up a few of them. Set a date each week where those things will be done, without you nagging. It's also reasonable that they do their own laundry, pick up after themselves, make their bed, hang up wet towels, and not leave dishes out for you to do. Perhaps they could care for the dog? Do some gardening? These chores are fair, and make them a better roommate when they return to college. They are not home to be your maid, but you're not there to wait on them either. Think teamwork.
With meals and groceries, communication helps. I have a small whiteboard on an easel on a kitchen counter that updates everyone on which nights I'm serving dinner and at what time, and each person can let me know if they will be gone so I don't waste food. I grocery shop several times a week, and I let our college student know she can write down requests on the list in the kitchen.
If other things bother you, talk it over so you can work it out. Be realistic. Your adult son or daughter is only home for a few months. If they are a night owl, you are unlikely to reform their sleep schedule. It may be a job or early morning class in the future that shifts their schedule.
Make it a wonderful summer. Talking about your expectations and asking for your college student's involvement will help!