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Returning College Student

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: Our son will be returning home this summer after a year at college. What expectations should we have as far as helping out, not having big parties when we leave for the weekend or a vacation, and letting us know his whereabouts and plans? His 'senior summer' last year was one of drinking and hanging out with friends. He had a job but didn't really see the problem with calling in 'sick' if something better came up at the last minute. We have a good relationship as far as talking to each other, but his follow through on agreements isn't great.


This is a major transition period for him and you, as he will be returning home from college for the first time after not having had to answer to his parents for any of his behavior (for at least nine months). Given his senior year summer's drinking/partying/hanging out experience, I would not be surprised if he came home with an even more carefree, hedonistic attitude toward his summer vacation. You did not mention that you had disagreements about his past underage (probably irresponsible) drinking and irresponsible attitude toward work so I would expect that he thinks you tacitly have endorsed/allowed this behavior and will do so again. I think that you may have set yourselves up for some continued irresponsible drinking and job habits through your prior responses.

I would suggest that you do not wait until he comes home this summer to discuss your summer expectations of him as a member of the family. I would extend him understanding based upon his newfound independence as a college student but I would also suggest that you establish some "common courtesy" rules of behavior and family responsibility with him. He should not be using your home, as a hotel and as party central when you are away. If he is under 21, he is still an underage drinker. He can and should participate in sharing household chores and responsibilities. I am a firm believer in all family members' knowing each other's whereabouts and how to contact each other at all times. Discuss your concerns, and rules (always with the reasons and values behind them) in a series of informal conversations and letters before your son returns home.

Anyone who has ever returned to their parents' home after their first year of college can understand how difficult a transition this can be. With mutual understanding, and respect, this summer can be a pleasant reuniting, one that can be looked forward to each and every summer of year.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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