Home Again


Remember the tears you shed when you said goodbye to your high school graduate as they drove off to college? Well, get the tissue out again, because they’re probably coming back for the summer. Along with bags of laundry, stacks of tattered and worn books, and teary goodbyes to newly-made friends, children returning home from college for a summer stay will no doubt be packing a little attitude in their suitcase. I don’t believe it’s intentional, but rather the result of spending many months living in independence and freedom. They come home and feel like they’re drowning in rules and regulations. They text their friends in search of a life-saving ring until they realize they’re all in the same boat.

Over the last few weeks, children have been returning home from college all over the nation while parents have been gritting their teeth, preparing for their arrival. While most moms and dads are thrilled at the thought of seeing their son or daughter again for an extended period of time, they are cautiously optimistic about how to handle their bundle of sweetness and sarcasm.

I have been through this with three of my kids and have some ideas to share on how to make this not just tolerable, but a pleasant situation. The first issue to tackle is accountability. These kids have not been accountable to anyone for nearly a year. There’s been nobody waiting up for them at night because it’s likely their roommate is out too. Their friends don’t blink an eye at what they are eating, because they are eating the same things. And nobody complained of the smell from the clothes they didn’t have time to wash. That’s about to change.

Setting boundaries with your kids is very appropriate and necessary to enjoy the short, precious time you have together. It’s important that you pick a reasonable time for a curfew. They may argue they don’t need one, but they are living in your home and you should expect them to respect your rules.

Establishing expectations for helping around the house is another area to address. Your child needs to quickly understand that they are not vacationing at Club Med where they are entitled to a luxury suite, three meals a day, and free laundry service. Help them remember that living back home comes with responsibilities. This is a privilege, not a hotel stay.

Asking them to get a summer job to help out with their expenses is not unreasonable—just ask any parent, not another young person. Part of growing up is learning how expensive it can be to live. Their summer income can be used toward the household budget or at least to pay for books and other necessities at school.

Once you’ve figured out how to live together again peacefully and the chores have been outlined and assigned, then make sure you build in some quality time together to learn about this child who is emerging into an adult. Not all their behavioral changes will be bad. There will be glowing moments that will bring you pride as you start to recognize the fruits of your parenting labor—it’s not all sour grapes!

Your child is just beginning to mature. And at some point, this once unpredictable, sometimes sassy, but always adorable child will eventually grow into a polite, capable, and responsible adult. And when they return next summer, you will gladly welcome them home again.