You thought house rules were tricky when your kids were in high school. Hah! What about when they're home from college, where they could stay out until 2 a.m.?
Negotiate ahead of time. "You can readily acknowledge that home is not like the dorms or the fraternity house," says pediatrician Daniel Levy, a developmental pediatrician who sits on the American Academy of Pediatrics' committee on communications and the media. "We need to establish some ground rules before you come home, and we need to have some agreement for how we're going to stick by them. If that doesn't work out, then the alternative would be to find another place to live during the summer."
Set clear policies on drinking and smoking. Say, "'I don't want you smoking here. We don't want any underage drinking,'" says Levy. Among the reasons: the potential for car crashes, the top cause of adolescent deaths. Forty percent of teens who died had been drinking, according to a 2011 teen driving research report by The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and State Farm Insurance Companies.
Consider your beliefs. "So much depends on the values of the family," says Levy. You may want to say, "'We understand if you have a girlfriend. We were in college once. If you need some privacy, we need to talk about that, too,'" he says. Do you need to 'fess up if your own behavior was not sterling when you were in college? Not necessarily. Don't lie – but you can keep some details to yourself.
Remember that your college kids are adults, not toddlers. "The mentality that governs grown-up relationships is a mentality of mutual respect and concern, and avoidance of things which cause embarrassment and distress," says child psychiatrist Elizabeth Berger, author of Raising Kids with Character. "For this reason, grown-up children who may be spending a summer in their parents' home will not be tromping noisily into the house at 3 a.m."
Explain your reasoning. Say, "'I understand that you have that freedom at college," says Nashua, N.H., psychologist Carl Hindy, co-author of If This Is Love, Why Do I Feel So Insecure. "'But when you're living in the house with us, I have to ask you to live up to these expectations for our comfort. It's not that I don't trust you. But it's hard for me to sleep if I don't know that you're home." You can add, "'It would be no different than if your mother were out or another family member who lived with us who was double or triple your age was out,'" says Hindy. "'Don't take it as demeaning you. I don't mean to be treating you like a 15-year-old. When your mother goes out to do an errand, she tells me where she's going. There isn't some rule that she must tell me. It's the common courtesy that we expect of people living together."
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