Your student may be coming home from college for the first time, or they may have been in college for several years and are returning home for their last summer break. Either way, the person who comes home will not be quite the same person that left. They’ve been used to unlimited freedom, not having to check in with anyone, and a degree of autonomy that simply isn’t possible back at home. So how can you make sure that your house stays civil and your rules are respected without making your student feel smothered?
1. Decide on a curfew policy. You may not care what time your student comes home. Or you may care very much and think that coming home at 4:30 in the morning is simply unacceptable. Either way, set some kind of curfew policy in advance so that everyone’s clear.
2. Talk about how much time is to be spent with the family. After a few days, you may feel more like a hotel for your student than their home. You don’t see them during meals, don’t see them during the day, and don’t usually see them at night — unless they’re asking for the car keys. Have a conversation about how they are still a member of your household and what expectations you have for seeing their lovely face every once in a while.
3. Talk about the use and presence of stuff. Do you care how your student keeps their room? You may have had rules about clean rooms before your student left for school, but for several months now your student hasn’t had to answer to anyone about what their room looked like. Does that need to change? What about leaving things around the house or using other people’s stuff, like those belonging to other siblings?
4. Talk about visitors. You may like seeing your student be so social, but you may not like (or simply may not be able to afford) feeding 5 of their friends 5 nights a week. Additionally, walking into the family room only to find a stranger asleep on your couch might also be jarring. Set some guidelines about who is allowed to visit and for how long, making sure to address romantic interests and overnight guests in particular.
5. Discuss the car. Ah, the family car. It may be a beloved member of your family, but it also needs gas, oil changes, insurance, and maintenance. Additionally, it may be needed by more than one person at any given point in time. Make sure to discuss with your student both when and how the car can be used and who pays for what (especially gas).
6. Be clear on family responsibilities. Your student may be used to having tons of freedom in school. But that doesn’t mean, for example, that they can simply not attend their younger brother’s birthday party or help with the grocery shopping. What kinds of things do you expect your student to be around for and help with? What do they need to know about and plan for in advance?
7. Come up with a communication plan. Before they left for school, you most likely knew where your student was most, if not all, of the time. You knew who they were with, where they were going, and when they were going to be home. Come up with some guidelines for your student for something similar. While you may not be able to get as many details as before from your student, it’s still perfectly reasonable to expect some clear and consistent communication from your student about their plans and whereabouts.
8. Talk about money. Is it okay if your student asks you for spending money? If they don’t ever put gas in the car (see #5, above)? If they have money from their job that you think they are spending frivolously? Discuss money and what expectations you have about your student’s financial contributions, if any, during their time at home.
9. Be clear on chores. It may seem like a minor problem now, but having an extra person in your household inevitably adds dirt to the place. When, and by whom, do you expect chores (like cleaning the bathroom) to be done? Be clear on what needs to be done by when, by whom, and how frequently in order to avoid a funky situation and a conflict with your student.
10. Be clear, in advance, on what happens when your student heads back to school. Will they leave their room a mess? Expect you to drive them? Leave boxes in your garage? Carpool with friends and expect you to ship their stuff that won’t fit in the car?
Your student’s visits home can definitely be a highlight of the year — for everyone. With a little proactive planning and communication, you can make sure that the time you spend with your student is relaxed and enjoyable instead of focused on things that are frustrating you both.