Q: I’m a college student living at home for the summer, and I’m starting to get annoyed with my parents. Even though I lived independently on campus, they’re enforcing rules that I had to follow as a high schooler. I understand that they want to keep me safe; so they limit my ability to hang out with friends at night or don’t let me have girls over but it feels like I’m losing the freedom I had in college. How should I approach this in a respectful way?
A: Readjusting to being back home can be a difficult transition, both for young adults and their parents. While certain aspects of our lives may go back to how they were before, like assisting with household chores, other aspects may be trickier to navigate. When living independently or with peers there are often less expectations to share and compromise, but now you will need to discuss things such as when you can use the car, rules about curfew expectations and overnight guests, or even what food in the fridge is okay to eat.
Gail Groboski, LCSW-C, one of our adolescent therapists, has a few suggestions for effective communication between college students and their parents. First, if possible, talk about expectations with parents prior to even coming home. Identify personal boundaries and attempt to reach some agreements, recognizing that it is okay to have non-negotiables, such as expecting some privacy. Validating your parents’ feelings, needs, and ethics whenever possible, while using the language of “we” in your negotiations, shows your parents respect and helps them to view you more as an equal. Know your limits, respect your parents limits as well, and strive for compromises that work for all. Remember that this discomfort is natural and helps us to have the courage and motivation to leave the comfort of the nest. Enjoy your summer.