Hey Dad, Please Grab Me a Beer

Even though your kids are probably not returning home from college for a few weeks, it’s time to start planning for their arrival. After 9 months of making the vast majority of choices on their own, they’ll likely assume that many of the freedoms they had at college will continue. They’ll want to come and go as they please. They’ll probably go to sleep sometime around 3 a.m. and get up just in time for lunch. They might even think it’s OK to sit in YOUR recliner and throw back a few beers while catching the NBA playoffs.

This creates a dilemma for parents. They realize that their relationship with their children has changed, and they want to be respectful of their budding adulthood. At the same time, they’re concerned that they might feel pressured to tiptoe around all day, so as not to wake up junior. They’re wondering if it’s still OK to have a curfew and if they’ll stay up worrying when their kids don’t come home and don’t call. Some are even wondering if they should just give in and have a few beers with their kids. After all, they’ve done it all year at school, so why bother fighting it? (Just so I’m clear, in no way would I encourage a parent to allow their underage kids to drink in their home. However, this is a real issue that many parents will face, so it’s worth considering.)

If you’re worried about these or other issues, the time to talk with your kids is now, before they arrive. Parents often wait until their kids are home to talk with them. But by that time it’s likely too late, and your calm oasis could become a typhoon zone. You’ll begin the summer arguing with your children, and you’ll have to put in way too much time and effort to right the ship.

Before talking, think about what your expectations are. Will they have a curfew? Do you expect them to get a summer job? Or will they help around the house to make spending money? Or are they expected to help around the house, regardless of payment? Will they be expected to join the family for regular events: church, holiday parties, etc.? Are they planning on sharing your car? Do you expect them to be up by a certain time? Do they need to call or send you a text if they are going to spend the night elsewhere? Can their boy/girlfriend sleep over?

After sharing your expectations, be open to hearing their opinions. After all, they’re adults (at least chronologically) and they should have some say in the rules. Be open to what they say and make adjustments where you’re comfortable.

Then when they get home, have a follow-up conversation, in which you remind them about the expectations you discussed. Be prepared to reopen negotiations, as circumstances may change between now and then. At the same time, remain aware of your core needs: sleep, not worrying if/when they’ll come home or if they’ll be intoxicated, the need for quality family time, etc. and stick to them.

In a perfect world, everyone respects everyone and the summer runs smooth as silk. The reality is that your child will probably challenge the rules and you’ll have to revisit what you discussed previously. If the problem isn’t solved after talking about it, you’ll have to take further actions. OK, it’s pretty difficult to ground a 19-year-old. Instead, they’re probably still dependent on you for money and transportation. And if they refuse to adjust their behavior, these privileges can be withheld until they do.

2 Responses to Hey Dad, Please Grab Me a Beer
  1. Mom
    May 11, 2012 | 3:33 pm

    Great article. Thanks for the ideas

    • Lisa
      May 11, 2012 | 8:05 pm

      Very good advice! 🙂

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