June 02, 2011

Students’ return home changes life for everyone

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college_student_moving_in_siteYou hear “I’m hoooooooooooooome!” The refrigerator opens, and the TV channel changes to MTV’s "16 and Pregnant.”

College students have returned, and summer officially has begun.

What’s a mother to do?

“After a positive welcome, let your student know that although he has been on his own for a while, there are behaviors you need from him now that he is back in your home,” says child-adolescent psychologist Vivian Friedman, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

From day one, know the issues and be clear about your expectations and the consequences. Some topics to discuss include:

  • Are you willing to pick up after them and do their laundry?
  • Do they need a job?
  • Will they share their car with siblings?
  • Is dinner with the family mandatory?
  • Do they have a curfew?

Express your reasons for these rules in “I” terms — not “you” terms, Friedman says. “Tell them, ‘I can’t sleep when you come home at 3 a.m.’ rather than, ‘You have a crazy lifestyle,’” she says.

And if there are rules, enforce them — for both your sakes.

“Not only are you teaching him to respect you, but you are giving him job skills,” says Friedman. “He cannot hold a job if he cannot abide by rules and respect authority. He doesn’t have to like it, but he does have to comply.”

And what if your child repeatedly ignores the rules?

“Tough love,” Friedman says. “Tell him to find another place to live and to support himself.”

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