You sent your child off to college, and, like a boomerang, he (or she) is back for the summer.
While it’s certainly great to have the family back together, a few things have changed over the course of an academic year. Your student has been enjoying newfound freedoms (read: no curfews and no reminders to eat veggies), but isn’t quite a full-on adult, yet. And, your child’s former room? Well, it’s probably also in an in-between stage, serving as a makeshift gym or art studio in your child’s absence.
So, how do you live in this kind of limbo, while keeping your sanity during the summer months? We tapped experts to help suss out how to handle your college student being home for the summer months.
Decide whether there’s a household curfew
Sure, your college student may be accustomed to coming and going at all hours while away at school. But hearing that garage door creak open or the dog bark when they slip in after midnight can interrupt your sleep. (Plus, you might be prone to worrying if your child is out late).
Setting a curfew for young adults is perfectly acceptable, especially if your child is still under the age of 21, according to Montigus Jackson, a licensed mental health counselor who specializes in working with families and who is with Starting Point Counseling Services.
“This will allow the young adult to know what the expectations are and how to respect parents in the household,” Jackson said. “In some cases the young adult may feel they are too grown for a curfew but they still have to realize they are going back into their parents’ house.”
If you go the “no curfew” route, establish what kind of courtesies you want in place. Should your child give you an ETA of when they’ll be home? Should he or she text you if plans change and it’s turning into a later night?
Spend some family time
Ahh. Here’s where expectations and reality don’t always perfectly align. The Counseling and Psychological Services office at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif. puts it gingerly: While you, the parent, are certainly important, you’ve always been there for your children. So, it’s natural for them to want to see friends first after coming home from college. The university suggests not getting in the way of the visits they have planned with their buddies from high school, but certainly let your children know you’d also like to spend some quality time with them. An idea? Plan a meal or gathering that involves catching up with friends.
Revisit the house rules
It might be time to refresh the rules that govern your household as your child, hopefully, has become more mature while away at school. The counseling service at the University of Pacific suggests letting your child show off their maturity some. It’s best to avoid the temptation to pamper your child. For example, cleaning up after them or doing their laundry can set some bad precedents.
Make their room an easy-to-convert space
Now that you’ve got the house rules in order, it’s time to get the house in order. If you’ve been temporarily using your child’s room as a workout or hobby space, make the transition smooth by clearing out the room and having ClosetBox pick up your storage items. (The ClosetBox team will return them once your child returns to school, making it a seamless process).
Spend some time organizing with your young adult
You already know that heavy use household items should be more easily accessible than, say, holiday decorations and keepsakes. The same strategy applies when it comes to your college kid’s room, says Ben Soreff of House to Home Organizing. “Typically, if a kid is in college, his or her room would stay the same if they came home fairly frequently,” Soreff said. “However, as time goes on, even by senior year, they may not be coming home and staying long-term.”
When your child is home from college, Soreff suggested, have them go through their keepsakes and set aside the ones they want to store. There are typically two types of keepsakes: Ones you, as the parent, are keeping for your child and the ones your children keep for themselves that need to be stored until they get their own apartment.
If you don’t want to wait until your child comes home from college to start the organizational process, do some of these sessions over Skype or by sending photos.
Of course, Closetbox can store your college student’s keepsakes and household items until they have a nest to call their own.
Divvy up some household tasks
Far from a house guest, your college student should be able and willing to take on some responsibility. Hey, it’s only fair if you’re providing room and board, right? Whether it’s making dinner once a week, helping with some projects around the house or mowing the lawn, set up the expectations early.
Decide whether they’ll chip in for bills
For most families, it’s a money-saver for kids to come home during the summer breaks from college because they won’t be paying expensive rent in college towns. If they’re living rent-free and working a summer job, it’s worth communicating what your expectations. Should they be saving that money to offset costs during the school year? Should they chip in for groceries? If you’ve got a kiddo not paying rent, and dining out at restaurants that aren’t in your budget or amassing video games or designer handbags, it can definitely cause some tension.