Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on June 4th, 2016, 0 Comments

Modern Family: Season 7, Episode 22, Double Click

Plotline: Hey, guys. It’s Alex. I’m home.

Alex S7 E22

Alex returns tonight after her first year away at college, but nobody remembered that she was coming home.

Alex: Hey! Hey!
Phil: What are you doing home?
Alex: Are you serious?! School’s out. I’m home for the summer. You knew this.
Phil: Must have slipped my mind. I’m so glad you’re back.
Alex: That’s it? Sanjay’s parents are throwing him a three-day “Welcome Home” party. They even made him a suit out of marigolds.

Later there’s this.
Luke (thumping Alex on the back): Hey. This is a nice surprise, pumpkin.
Alex: Was I too subtle with the way I put it on the calendar?

And this.
Claire: Oh, hey. What are you doing home?
Alex (scoffing): Being crushed over and over by family members.

After nine months away, most college kids are now back at home for the summer. You probably didn’t forget about their return (like the Dunphys did). But it can still feel like the start of an awkward dance – especially if this is your college kid’s first summer back.

Most of us don’t really want to have to go back to those days of enforcing a curfew, telling them to get up, or nagging them to get off the couch. And it can be just as tough on our kids to be back dealing with our requirements and requests after they’ve grown used to planning their days and nights just the way they want them.

Almost all college kids come home for the summer more like adults than when they left. But many will quickly revert back to their high school selves because they know they can. After all, we’re there for back up – dishing out money if they run out of cash, saying “no” to some of their plans, and encouraging them to get out of bed or off the couch and do something worthwhile.

To help keep your college kid from reverting back to their younger self while their home for the summer, sit down together soon after they’ve returned and negotiate the expectations. Here are some topics to consider as you plan for that conversation.

Curfew? Instead of a curfew, you might ask to be kept updated on their plans. If they’re going to be out a lot later than originally planned or if they decide to sleep elsewhere for the night, most of us would want know. We sleep more soundly if we know everybody is safe. Having us calling frantically when we awaken in the wee hours of the morning and find that they’re not home is stressful for everybody. So ask that they text if their plans change. And make sure they have a key so that they’re not awakening you at 4 AM to let them in.

A summer job. Staying out late, sleeping in, and then lounging on the couch or laying out in the sun for the rest of the day might sound like the perfect way to spend a summer to many college kids. But they need to be taking on the responsibilities of a job. If they can’t find a paying job or if making money isn’t a top priority, than an unpaid internship or a volunteer job should count. You might agree that you won’t bug them about sleeping in or time spent lounging on the couch or lying in the sun as long as they’re working full time.

Chores. They should help with the household chores while they’re home for the summer – even if they have a full time job. So negotiate how they’ll help out. Driving around younger siblings, doing laundry (at least their own), helping keep shared spaces tidy, and helping make supper or clean up afterwards are all possibilities.

Substance use. It’s fair to insist that there be no drinking or other substance use or drunk or high people in your home. Regardless of the choices they’ve made while they were away at college, being clear about what happens in your home is one of the best ways to remind them about your values around substance use.

Sleepovers with boyfriend/girlfriend. Their room is still their room, and it’s still a part of your home. So you have a say about what happens there. Some parents are okay with college age kids sleeping together in their home as long as the two are in a long-term, committed relationship. Other parents aren’t comfortable with that arrangement. Just as with substance use, what you allow in your home when it comes to sleepovers sends a message about your values.

Connecting Lines:
While away at school kids have had a chance to learn a thing or two about the effect of their actions and inactions. They’ve developed more self-discipline in the process.

So don’t make this conversation a power play by laying down the law. Instead make it clear that you respect their new maturity and sense of independence and in turn you expect them to hold up their end of the bargain by honoring the agreements you’ve made for the summer.

Resisting the inclination to revert to being their back-up gives you your best chance of seeing your college kid’s new maturity. And don’t forget, before you know it, they’ll be packing up and moving back to school.

Resources: “Home (Bitter) Sweet Home: How to Deal with Returning Home for the Summer” by Caroline Finnegan in Flown & Grown

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