Harmony in the Holiday House with Young Adults Coming Home
It is Christmas Vacation, a time of no school and plenty of parties. At these parties young adults, whether older high school students; newly graduated, newly working for self-support; and college students of all types whether technical or academic, have time to relax, visit family and socialize. Some families might even have a soldier or two home for the holidays. It is a time of holiday parties, meeting with friends, and reconnecting with high school classmates.
These young adults often have a difficult time adjusting to their status as grown-ups in the holiday house when they are home for vacation. Parents are often at odds with these transitional-age youth, especially if still students. They are officially adult, but they are only recently advanced to that status with siblings and parents. This transitional status requires a delicate balance between granting more adult freedoms and reinstating or maintaining the house rules that were in effect when they were younger.
What’s a Parent to Do? Try these 6 Suggestions
Here are a few tips to help manage the need for greater freedom and responsibility on the part of the
- Avoid invoking the “as long as you live under this roof you obey our rules” dictum. It is not a persuasive argument for students who are mobile and increasingly autonomous. This is particularly true of new college students returning home for the holidays. At college, in their own homes, or in a barracks, they have been free agents, setting their hours for work and play without any parental supervision.
- Negotiate: Instead of imposing the same old house rules on curfews and activities, give recognition to the adult status of these students, soldiers, and youth by making curfews suggested or, at least, with wider windows. Attendance at parties, concerts or other activities is expected by their peers. Don’t make them appear to be under the same rules as they were when they were “children.”
- Chores and household duties should also be negotiated. Babysitting duties that interfere with the crowded social calendar should be minimized. They may be unavoidable because of family necessity, but less is better. Find other chores such as driving, cooking, cleaning, and/or organizing that can be done anytime.
- Suspend the rules on room tidiness and substitute a minimal amount of order in the personal areas. The young adult returning home for the holidays will be living out of a duffel bag and may have need of immediate laundry attention.
- Watch that language. Young adults may try to stretch boundaries by using saltier language or may do so accidentally. This is a situation where house rules will apply, especially if there are younger siblings or older family members present. Ask the young adults to be respectful of others when they are at home, at the table or on their phones.
- Limit time on social media but, again, don’t impose absolute hours and sanctions. These considerations should also be negotiated and be more suggestions than orders.
A Few More Pointers
- Safety: This is by far the greatest concern. Prohibiting the use of alcohol even to underage young adults is tricky because
inthis day, access to alcohol and drugs is easy. The primary admonition is to be CAREFUL. Imposing the “law” is a challenge but a reminder of the severe consequences of a DUI, especially if underage, can be persuasive.
- Communication: In the age of the cell phone, email, text messaging, Twitter, etc. there is no excuse for being out of touch. Keeping parents up to date on where and when for party locations and time of arrival at home is not asking for too much. Ask them to call any time if parental help is needed.
- Loving interest: Having conversations with your young adults and getting their input on expected activities and events at the beginning of their holiday at home will help. Don’t hand them a list of the house rules. Have an adult conversation with the young adults and keep it respectful and loving.
The fact that they are home safe to enjoy the holidays with their family and friends is the greatest holiday gift any parents can have. Keep that in mind when your loved one forgets to take out the garbage.
R. Fred Zuker, Ph.D.