Tips for Parents

House rules and the visiting student

Negotiating your relationship with your student as they return home for breaks can be a delicate situation. Should your son be required to abide by the rules of the house when visiting for spring break, holidays and long weekends, or should the more relaxed expectations of campus life extend to the home as well?

Deciding whether or not to enforce standard house rules will depend on a number of factors, including the maturity level of your student, your expectations as parents and the possible impact on younger siblings who share the home.

Chances are you had some clearly established rules in your home before your student went off to college. As the first break from college approaches, it is a good idea to reexamine those ground rules and decide which ones should still apply. For instance, you might still want to establish a curfew – but change it from midnight to 2 a.m. You might want to keep the “no overnight guests” rule for your household, while allowing your college student to bring in friends during the day.

Whatever you ultimately decide to do, it is important to clearly communicate any house rules and behavioral expectations well in advance of the upcoming break. The house rules you decide to enforce should not come as a surprise to your college student. Taking the time to discuss those rules honestly and openly – and being prepared to negotiate and give some ground – can be a great way to show your student you understand that they are growing up.

Don’t forget that your college student is experiencing a newfound freedom that simply was not available during her high school years. New college students may be understandably reluctant to give up that freedom, even for the short duration of Thanksgiving break or the holiday season. You do not have to abandon the house rules altogether or turn over control of the household to your student, but it often pays to be flexible and understanding.

It is also important for you to set realistic expectations for yourself. The college student who returns to the nest may be quite different from the high school graduate who left it. While the ways your son has changed over a few months of school may surprise you, it is important to be patient and open. Use this break as a renewed opportunity to get to know your student. A clearly spelled out set of rules and expectations can make the transition back home more fun and less stressful for you and your student.

Did you enjoy reading this article? Sign up for UniversityParent’s weekly eNewsletter for additional tips and advice to help your college student succeed. You can also add to the discussion and get feedback from fellow college parents by joining our College Parents’ Facebook group.

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