Parents of college kids are in a unique spot, especially compared to what they’ve experienced up to this point in raising their teens. Now those teens are officially “adults,” and proceeding from this point may get a bit tricky.
Recently, someone asked me what the rules should be for a college kid who lives at home. What about sharing in the bills and food costs? Should they have a curfew? Should they pay rent?
Those are very interesting questions, and I found them to be thought provoking since my husband and I had not had that experience before. Our older two kids went away to school and lived in the dorms to start with, then later moved into apartments.
I did two things when faced with this question.
One, I tried to imagine what I would say and do if I woke up in that situation.
Two, I asked other people who had been in that situation what they did and what advice they would offer.
I will say, even when our kids were home from college for the summers, these same factors were at work, so our experience does somewhat apply.
Turning 18 is a big deal for your teen, and a lot of things change – drastically.
Parents, even though they might be paying the bills, are essentially cut out of the information and communication loop entirely as far as any university is concerned. They are not required to keep you informed about anything. It is a totally different playing field from high school.
Because your student is an adult, the university communicates only with the student. If you as a parent want any emails or information regarding your student’s grades, tuition, fees, or activities, you should actively maintain a good relationship with your teen and regularly remind him to keep you posted on important events. Especially at the beginning of a semester when tuition and fees are due.
That being said, the dynamic inside your home will change if your student is living at home and attending college. It really has to.
My son-in-law lived at home during his time in college. He told me that his parents never enforced a curfew with him. His dad just calmly and frequently reminded him that nothing good ever happens after midnight.
Nothing good ever happens after midnight.
Whether you agree or not, your student is officially an adult, and should be preparing for the next level of responsibilities life will throw at them. It certainly depends on the maturity level of each individual, and granted some kids are more equipped for it than others, but they all need to learn how to function in the adult world as soon as possible.
Because of this, a curfew is really an obsolete thing now. Think about how they would be doing things if they lived in a dorm room with a roommate. College kids often study late, go out with their friends, and have late classes. Sometimes they have group work to do and the groups can only meet late or at certain times.
It just isn’t feasible to expect a college student to be in by 10 or 11 o’clock every night. There has to be a lot of flexibility.
That’s not to say the student should not be encouraged to use discretion when keeping late hours. Early morning classes can really be a determining factor on that. But hard fast rules and curfews are not practical or necessary at this point.
Regarding paying bills and rent.
Think of this, again, from the viewpoint of how things would be if your student lived in a dorm room. The expense of the dorm is being avoided by having the student live at home.
Also, other expenses such as food, utilities, and cell phone would be paid by you or your student anyway. Making them pay rent and extra money to live at home mainly defeats the purpose for them to live at home.
If you are financially able to swing it, this extra burden on the student should be avoided. It’s good to help them get ahead financially at this point in their lives. If they are working and going to school, encourage them to save as much money as they can. Help them to avoid going into debt at ALL cost, and help them to start their lives in as secure of a financial position as they can be. Refer to the article Why Teens Should Avoid Student Loan Debt Like the Plague for more on this topic.
If your student is home for the summer or a holiday, it is certainly your call on how to set up the rules of your household, but remember. Your teen is now in college. The landscape is going to be different from now on.
Does your college age student live at home? Can you give any other insights on how to manage this situation? If so, please scroll down and leave a comment below. Other parents want to know how you do it. Thanks, and as always,