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What to Expect When You're Expecting (Your College Kid Home for Christmas)

Mistake #2: Expecting pre-college rules to apply

Prior to starting college in the fall, your son lived under your roof, by your rules. The minute you dropped him off at the dorm, everything changed. He arrived in a world where he made most of his own decisions about everything from how late to stay out (or even whether to come home at all), to whether to show up for class, to what to eat for lunch. If he wanted to survive on a diet of nothing but croutons and Dr. Pepper, no one would stop him.  But in your mind, he’s still the same kid you dropped off in August; he still needs rules and your guidance to make good decisions. This is a recipe for conflict and it’s best to head it off at the pass.

After he sleeps off the exhaustion of finals week, you may want to initiate a conversation that includes a re-negotiation of the house rules. As the parents (and the owners of the proverbial roof over his head), you still maintain the right to say what goes on in your home. You most likely still support your child financially, and even if you’re not directly paying for school, you probably still pay for things like car and medical insurance, living expenses, and spending money—not to mention letting him share space in your home over Christmas break. But just because you have the right to impose rules doesn’t mean that it is wise to do so.

In our family, although we never felt the need for a curfew, we did ask our kids to call home if they expected to be out past 11:00. Our older son doesn’t mind following this same guideline when he come home for break. Because we enjoy a good relationship and open communication, he understands that rather than his parents imposing a rule on him, he chooses to call as a way to be considerate of our feelings. Ideally, your son or daughter knows and respects your family’s values and, with good communication during the first few days of Christmas break, you can avoid conflicts about rules and enjoy your time together.  Parenting involves a gradual process of teaching responsibility and letting go. Discuss expectations and guidelines in a mature and "adult" manner that reflects the changing nature of your relationship while at the same time respecting your home and your family values.