When I was 17 I left home and went away to another State to attend college. I was so excited by the chance to actually live away from home, away from my parents watchful eyes. Away from the rules and questions and comments. I would finally get to live on my own, my way, with my rules. Okay, my parents were still footing the bill, but the fact that I was 3 hours away from home made it a lot less likely that they would be interfering in my life too much.
I learned a lot over 4 years, not all academic. I learned how to live on my own. I learned how to budget (although not very well). I learned that when you didn’t have family to rely on, you had to make your own decisions (good or bad). I made mistakes. But those were mistakes worth making. I learned to be independent and rely on myself. There was no one telling me what to eat, what to wear, when to go to class.
My children are still young and I still have a few years before we need to start seriously thinking about what college they will attend. I do, however, have several friends with college age kids and I am secretly absorbing all the tidbits of information from their relationships today so that I can use it for later with my own kids.
These are college age kids who live at home.
As an outsider, I can sit on the sidelines and clearly see the problems. I have one friend who seems to be doing it right. I have another friend who seems to be doing it wrong. Okay, maybe not wrong. Every parent has the ability to raise their children the way they see fit. I just thought I’d share some of the ground rules we will be setting if our kids decide to live at home while attending college.
Live at home – live by our rules.
I have had parents tell me, “They’re an adult, I can’t really tell them anything.” That’s a load of crap. My parents always told me that if I was living in their house, I had to abide by their rules. Period. Just because your “child” is over 18 years old, doesn’t mean they can rule your house. I would clearly set ground rules of the house, write them down, and have them signed by all parties.
Outline monetary obligations.
One friend helped her daughter purchase a car. The daughter was supposed to take over the payments until the car was paid off. She had a regular, well-paying job, and could easily afford the car payment. She started complaining that it was too expensive. Parent ended up paying the car payment, telling me that it was in lieu of her giving a monthly cash allowance for school. Come on! An agreement is an agreement. Substituting one form of payment for another is not teaching the kid anything. If she agreed to pay for the car, let her pay for the car. If you want to give her additional money, that’s your prerogative, but that payment check should be written out and mailed in by the daughter.
Rent or No-Rent?
One of the biggest reasons kids end up living at home during college is to save on the expensive housing costs. You need to decide as a family if you will be expecting your child to contribute financially to any of the household expenses. Just because they may not be paying rent, they are still eating your food and using your utilities. Make it clear from the start if they are expected to help with those costs. And then stick to it!
Still part of the family.
Just because they are in “college” doesn’t mean that they are no longer part of the family. If they had chores to do before college, they should have chores to do after college. Living at home while going to school doesn’t mean they get a free pass on helping to clean the house, preparing meals and taking out the garbage. That old excuse, “I have too much school work” isn’t going to fly if you are sitting on the couch watching TV with your friends all afternoon.
Boyfriends and Girlfriends.
They may be over 18 and an adult in the eyes of the government, but they are living in your house and are still your child. I have heard from several parents that they have given up trying to keep the boyfriends out of the house. “She’s an adult and they’ll probably get married anyway, so I can’t really do anything about it.” OMG – seriously? If it’s your parental policy that you allow boyfriends (or girlfriends) to sleep over… go for it, it’s your right. But I will not be allowing any such thing in MY house with MY girls. You give in once, you will continue to give in and you’ve already set a bad precedence. It all goes back to the first point I made… live in MY house, abide by MY rules.
I know it’s a whole different dynamic once your kids get older, but don’t ever forget that YOU are still the parent. It is still YOUR house. YOU still make the rules.
And just like I tell my kids… if you don’t like it, go get yourself a job and an apartment and you can do whatever you like.