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Parenting college kids who come home for the summer

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SALT LAKE CITY — The school year is over and college students are home for the summer. Parents and their grown kids are bound to butt heads during the break, but there are ways to avoid clashes and enjoy the summer together.

When Linda Loosle's 19-year-old daughter Elise came home from BYU for the summer, Linda was thrilled. "We love having her home," she said. "She's really fun to have in the home, and she's really cute with the kids."

It's inevitable they are going to clash with their parents regarding rules and house expectations.

–Julie Hanks, LCSW


But Linda also had some concerns about her parenting role. "They come home; their main group of friends have gone away, and so it's trying to keep them happy and content," she explained.

As for Elise, she had a few concerns of her own. "Sometimes I get a little bit concerned about having the 24-hour surveillance, I guess," she said.

"It's inevitable they are going to clash with their parents regarding rules and house expectations," said Julie Hanks, a licensed clinical social worker and director of Wasatch Family Therapy.

Hanks said the important thing is to hit those "hot button" topics head on.

"Your child was away for nine months and now they're back. You have to change the rules," she said. "Address it together, adult to adult, and do it as soon as possible."

TIPS: When your college student comes home
When an adult child returns home for the summer, LCSW Julie Hanks suggests parents:
  • Talk about new expectations and rule changes
  • Set boundaries on your own parenting
  • Expect the adult child to contribute by doing household chores
  • Invite your child to attend family activities, but don't expect them to
  • "Reflect" instead of "direct" your comments to your child
For a list of common arguments parents and the adult children in their home face, as well as suggestions on how to resolve them, CLICK HERE.

The most common question Hanks hears from parents: Can I set a curfew?

"I think it's unrealistic to have a curfew for an adult child, but I do think it's OK to have house rules. [For example] ‘if you're living in our house, the doors lock at this time,'" Hanks explained.

She says it's also OK to expect those adult children to contribute. "I like to think of the household as ‘it's our family farm,'" Hanks said. "If you came back to the farm, you would be milking the cow. So instead: ‘You have to unload the dishwasher.' I think that's realistic."

But don't expect your kids to always come around. "Parents often have these visions of ‘we're going to be together again,' but the child wants to hang out with friends, do other things; so the tip for navigating family time is ‘invite but don't expect,'" Hanks said.

So, don't expect, but do enjoy.

"You can have a lot of fun," Hanks said. "You can have adult, mature conversations. Kids have changed a lot in the nine months away — in good ways too — so celebrate those wonderful changes. And it's really important to support the positive goals and positive aspects of their life and not just focus on trying to change their behavior, because they're all grown up now."

One more tip Julie passed along: It's in a parent's gut instinct to tell your child what to do, but she suggests parents "reflect the comment" rather than "direct the comment."

In other words, instead of telling your adult teen they are lazy for sleeping in until noon, comment that they must be tired or still playing catch-up from finals. That will communicate the point without attacking the behavior.


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Brooke Walker


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