1. When your child brings a boyfriend or girlfriend home to visit, what should the sleeping arrangements be? Let's be honest -- even if they start off in separate rooms, there's no guarantee they'll stay in separate rooms unless you plan on becoming the house RA. For me, once they're shown their separate "quarters," I'm no longer in charge. I tell myself repeatedly, my child is an adult now. And I think about anything but what I'm thinking about.
2. When your child is heading off to freshman year at a school away from home, do you go to help move him in, even if money is a hardship? And if you don't, will it create lasting emotional scars for your child regardless of how practical and self-assured he seems? A woman who works at a car rental company told me she couldn't believe how many parents were helping their kids move into school these days --- how she had to do it on her own, and how her parents just said see you when she left home, and how they never stepped foot on campus. By the time I signed my rental forms, she had talked her way into a tearful frenzy. It was the first time I've ever said I'm sorry while paying for something.
3. Once your child has been at college for a semester, is it fair to impose a curfew when he's back home for a visit? I've found that parents with more than one child tend to be more lenient about curfews post-high school -- they get tired of staying up, waiting for multiple children to arrive safely. Regardless, a curfew is tough to enforce once someone has lived without one. I say, if it helps you sleep, then yes, impose away. Not all of us can turn the worry off, just because our kids are of legal age.
4. If something happens to you, a family member, or family pet while your child is away at school, is it best to let him know immediately or to wait until you think the time is right? We spend so much of our parenthood protecting our kids, and revealing bad news carefully and judiciously. When I had an emergency recently, I didn't want to alarm my son, but I also didn't want him to think he was forgotten -- not part of the family anymore. In my opinion, it's best to discuss how they want to handle things ahead of time, so you can respect their wishes as a young adult.
5. If, while home for a visit, your nearly 21-year-old tells you she'll be going to a friend's and will have a beer or two while she's there, that she has a ride from a non-drinker, whom you know, and that her friend's parents, whom you know, will be there -- do you forbid her to go or let her? If she's in college, this happens plenty, minus the parents. Still, she's telling you the truth and wants you to know. However, she's underage and so are most of the kids, and they and the parents can get into trouble. What to do? Other than calling the parents, which seems extreme, I say you remind your daughter of the potential issues, and then turn it back over to her. You cannot control all the decisions she makes, and at some point, she's got to start assuming responsibility for them.
What are your thoughts on these questions? Weigh in below.
Join me next Monday for another installment of the Pre-Empt Chronicles, as I transition from full house to empty nest.
"Discuss the expectation of parents and kids in terms of how you behave at home and what responsibilities they have," said Katherine Newman, dean of the school of arts and sciences at Johns Hopkins University and author of The Accordian Family: Boomerang Kids, Anxious Parents and the Private Toll of Global Competition. "It's better to talk these things over rather than be silent and grinding your teeth behind closed doors." Groceries, cooking, laundry and tidiness can all be areas of conflict, so lay down some ground rules. Photo courtesy of jim212jim
"Instead of saying, 'I don't see you applying for jobs and this can't go on forever,' talk about what you expect," Newman said. Discuss goals for hours per day that will be spent networking and searching for jobs or choosing and applying to graduate schools.
While you're talking about autonomy, also lay down some ground rules for privacy. The most obvious: Knock before entering. Photo courtesy of ricky.montalvo
Boomerang kids are young adults who have typically become accustomed to keeping their own schedules without answering to anyone. That can rattle parents who want more accountability, or just a little courtesy. It's fair to ask an adult child to text you if they are going out rather than coming home for dinner. While it may be fine for them to keep their own hours, it's not fair to come home late and disturb the sleeping occupants of the house who have to work in the morning. Photo courtesy of srwsrwuk
If young adults are doing everything they can to move toward autonomy, parents should be patient and recognize there are larger economic forces at work. Rather than having them pay rent, focus on steps toward independence -- such as eliminating any revolving debt and paying student loans on time.
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