No Free Passes During Winter Break

Dec 30, 2017 by

College kids at home for several weeks have an important role to play around the house — don’t let them forget it!

by Daniel Riseman

Most parents can’t wait for their kids to return home from college during winter break.

These four weeks come with many expectations — but the reality is that kids will likely make plans independent of Mom and Dad. They have been living on their own for several months (if not far longer) and have enjoyed their newfound freedom.

When college kids return home, parents have to make a “conscious choice to parent differently,” said Christy Yerk-Smith, assistant director of counseling at DeSales University in Center Valley, Pennsylvania.

Four months at college have transformed kids, and “the trick for parents to remember is that some of these attitudes and behaviors stick and some don’t,” said Dr. Deborah Cohan, a professor of sociology at the University of South Carolina-Beaufort. As a result, parents need to be open-minded and accommodating — but not pushovers.

Keeping your kids’ minds active during winter break
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From day one, parents need to establish house rules with their returning kids. Forcing high-school rules on them will lead to resentment, so negotiations are critical. While parents need to treat kids like adults, these young people need to know they cannot treat their family home like a dorm room. Parents must make clear that erratic hours and big messes are unacceptable.

College students need to be held accountable when they return home. Sure, let them recharge, but they should not take advantage of you. They should help out with household chores and run errands to mitigate the family’s stress during the holiday season. Chores will instill in them the importance of contributing and enhance their empathy, as explained by Marty Rossman, a professor of family education at the University of Mississippi, in a recent Wall Street Journal article. Students need to learn that picking up after themselves is a sign of respect toward those living with them.

Coexisting under one roof means everyone is part of a team and must help out. At a family meeting, the entire household can discuss chores and who is assigned to which tasks. This process will make kids understand that everyone needs to contribute to managing the household. Parents should explicitly tell children what tasks they’ve been assigned, from doing the laundry, putting dishes in the dishwasher, emptying the dishwasher and taking out the garbage to keeping his or her bedroom clean. There should be no ambiguity at all — and if there’s a pet at home, kids can help with that, too.

These young adults need to understand that they still have a role to play in the family dynamic, and engaging in chores gives them the opportunity to give back to their parents. It is also important that students understand their parents have had a lot to take care of back home while they’ve been focused entirely on themselves at college.

Beyond chores, being at home for a few weeks provides a perfect opportunity to teach kids how to cook some simple meals. For the past several months, your child has eaten high-carb cafeteria food and likely gained some weight. Unfortunately, most college students are unable to cook for themselves: More than a third of students don’t even know how to boil an egg, according to the Huffington Post. Learning how to cook a meal or two, such as scrambled eggs and stir-fry, will provide your child more independence and better health.

Treating your college kid like an adult may be difficult, but returning to previous high-school rules can be disastrous.

College students should not be entirely dependent on dining halls. By junior year, most college students live off campus and are responsible for their own meals. As a result, cooking inexpensive food becomes essential. Cooking also makes students more conscious about what they’re eating and causes them to eat better — which should help them shed some of the “freshman 15.”

Many college kids borrow their parents’ cars during winter break. In such cases, ground rules need to be established. Drinking and driving is obviously never tolerated, but beyond that, students should be held responsible for filling up and paying for gas when needed. As for curfew, parents should not revert to the old rules from their child’s high school days. However, discussions are necessary to develop mutual expectations.

Treating your college kid like an adult may be difficult, but returning to previous high-school rules can be disastrous. Let your child know that you view him or her as an adult — and make it clear that with adulthood come responsibilities.

Daniel Riseman, founder of Riseman Educational Consulting in Irvington, New York, has been counseling students and working with families for more than 17 years. 

Source: No Free Passes During Winter Break

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