Teens home from college are also used to a certain level of independence. They have spent months without a curfew or having to clean their room. They may want to drink alcohol in the house even though they are underage, and leave their dishes in the sink, just like they did in the dorm.
But parents, most of whom do not have summers off, are not going to be happy if they can’t get any sleep because their teen is out until 2 in the morning. Setting some guidelines is key for making sure all members of the family have a happy summer.
Kate Roberts, PhD, says, “Parents and teens need to have a conversation about the house rules and expectations at the start of the summer. Returning college students need to understand that when they are home, they are no longer independent, and this may be a difficult transition for them at first.”
How can parents and teens enjoy the summer together without driving each other crazy? Here are some suggestions:
Roberts suggests parents sit down with their teen at the start of the summer. Roberts says, “Parents want their teens to enjoy being home so that they will want to continue to come home on their school breaks. Explain to your teen that you want the experience to be successful and welcome their input on how to make that happen.”
2. Don’t Assume
Parents may think they do not have to be clear with their teen about what they expect, but teens are not mind readers. Roberts says, “Sometimes parents just want teens to know what to do. They don’t want to set up rules and be the bad guy. But teens are egocentric and won’t necessarily ‘see things your way.’ Parents can’t be afraid to set firm boundaries.”
3. Set Limits
College teens may be used to drinking alcohol or having co-ed sleepovers in their room. Teens may think that because parents “know they are drinking at school,” there is no reason not to do these things in their home. For the same reason, parents may feel hypocritical enforcing these types of rules. But teens need to realize that home is not the dorm and that parents are well within their rights to set boundaries of acceptable behavior in their home. It is also against the law to serve alcohol to minors, and there are legal implications for parents who allow underage drinking in their home.
4. Expect Everyone to Contribute
During the school year, high school teens are usually very busy. Parents may choose not to ask for help around the house or to enforce a chore schedule. But in the summer, there is no reason high school and college teens cannot help out. Explains Roberts, “It is about reciprocity. To get adult privileges in a home you also need to take on adult responsibilities.” If everyone contributes, work gets done faster, and that leaves more time for having fun.
Roberts says, “Parents should explain to their teen, ‘I understand you want to stay out late, but I can’t sleep and I need to go to work. But we can have looser rules on the weekends.'”
6. Pick Your Battles
Parents do want to set up rules and limits, but they also want to keep open lines of communication with their teen. Says Roberts, “Everything can’t be the most important and the last thing both parents and teens want is to spend an entire summer arguing with one another.” Instead, parents need to pick their battles. Be flexible on certain issues but firm on issues concerning safety and your teen’s overall well-being.
7. Enjoy Each Other’s Company
It is easy to let the summer pass with everyone in their house doing their own thing. But don’t let this time go to waste. Whether it is a week of vacation together or just some day trips to the beach or a weekly family BBQ, put family time on the agenda. Let teens offer suggestions of what to do and don’t be upset if on occasion they want to change the plans.