How to live in harmony with your college kid
It's May and for some parents that means their college kids are home, either for the summer or, if they graduated, for good.
Now comes the challenge of everyone trying to live together in harmony once again.
College kids have been on their own for quite some time, doing what they want, when they want, so moving back into their parents' home, under their rules can be infuriating for them.
Children grow into adults but parents will always be parents, said Dr. Steven Tobias, director of The Center for Child and Family Development in Morristown. College kids expect to be treated like adults now but parents will naturally always treat their child like a child.
The challenge is really for parents to develop their parenting as the child grows, said Tobias. That's a very difficult transition for parents to make: the transition from the parent-child relationship to an adult-adult relationship.
The most important thing is communication, he said. Communicate feelings and needs. Since this is now an adult-adult relationship, Tobias said parents should not set rules. Instead, they should negotiate considerations with the young college adult. Be considerate of the feelings and needs of the other person.
For example, when it comes to curfews, it's difficult to set them now, said Tobias. The adult child will, no doubt, be resistant. But it would be fair to negotiate a reasonable time to come home. The kids should just let the parents know when they'll be home so parents are aware, and hopefully worry less.
It is common courtesy to let the people you live with what time you're going to be home and what you're doing. Tobias said the adult child should look at it as informing their housemates, roommates or suitemates of their plans. He said the other thing the adult child needs to understand is that no matter what, parents are still going to worry.
The worst time to talk about a problem is during the problem. Tobias recommends having family meetings. Always set aside some time to talk about things and get on the same page. He said it's best to discuss issues when emotional levels are not high.
Clarify what the roles will be within the family and the expectations. For example, Tobias said figure out if there will be family dinners or is everyone on their own. How much time will the family spend together? Who's responsible for the laundry, the vacuuming or clean the kitchen?
"Even though this is a very difficult time for the adult child to have to come home and be a part of a family again when they're used to being independent and on their own, I still think this can be a very close, warm and loving time for the family to be together if they're able to communicate and re-negotiate some of the relationships and some of the expectations," said Tobias.