When you thought about your greatest parenting challenge, you might not have considered raising a college-age kid. Society still has the expectation that teenagers fly the nest at 18 and stay completely independent thereafter, but the current work climate, competitive job market and cost of living makes that impossible for many. Being in college also doesn’t make someone prepared to live alone and be an adult. In fact, people in their late teens and early 20s still need parental support and guidance in many ways.
Of course, there are certain changes that will have to take place if your relationship is to stay healthy throughout this transitional period. Your child is no longer a high schooler, so they have to be granted some of the freedom this chapter of their life deserves. However, there will still have to be boundaries and expectations in place to avoid having your house turn into a revolving door or place for them to solely crash and eat.
Don’t Equate Age 18 With Unlimited Freedom
Although turning 18 is a major milestone, it should not signal a complete break from being a kid to a full-fledged adult. Parents who make this, and other mistakes, can cause their child to feel pushed out of the inner group, and they’re more likely to make decisions you disagree with simply because they think they can do whatever they want. You will need to establish rules, boundaries and standards for your child as they live at home. Although you may extend curfew and grant some more leeway in certain areas, they still need to contribute to the home and be a member of the family.
Create Financial Agreements
Living at home should not be equivalent to living wild and free. Many parents want their children to focus on school, so they take full financial responsibility for them. While they should prioritize their education, earning their degree at the expense of accountability isn’t as good as you may think. Emerging adults need to gradually build their own sense of capability; you can empower your children by giving them their own form of bills. If you plan on helping with their college costs, then fill them in on the process and any dues they may owe you later. You can borrow a private Parent Plus loan to cover the cost of your child’s education. These low-rate loans are easy to customize, so you’re never locked into one form of repayment.
Let Them Have a Voice
Although we discussed the importance of boundaries, it’s equally important to let your child have a say in the household. Their opinions should matter, and you should honor their feelings and worldviews even if they differ significantly from your own. Promote thoughtful discussion, honest discourse and respect at all times. If you and your child are struggling with communication, don’t avoid them and hope it will get better.
Learn how to talk to your grown daughter or son like the mutual adults that you are. In some cases, you may even want to reach out to a licensed family therapist and ask for advice. Many parents find that their relationship with their children actually improves as they get older. While there may be some emotional distance as your child begins to branch out, living at home gives the whole family the chance to support one another and grow closer.
Expect Them to Make Mistakes
Despite the fact they may be 18, a freshman is not ready to make all the right choices. No young adult is. Adults mature as they try new things and learn from their mistakes. As a parent, you likely have plenty of experiences that helped shape you into the person you are today. Don’t chastise your child for making normal mistakes. However, be conscious of the fact that there should be a limit to their experimentation. If they begin taking drugs, hanging out with bad influences and heading down a bad path, don’t be afraid to intervene.
How do you strike the right balance? It will vary from family to family. What you should keep in mind is that not every student will be tempted to do the same things. You also should avoid projecting your own college experiences or early adulthood onto them. Rather than trying to prevent all the mistakes you made, talk to them. Learn where their head is, and come to appreciate their own identity as a young adult.
Don’t Be Entirely Hands-Off
On the flip side, you may be tempted to think that because your child is a big kid now, you don’t have anything else to do for them. Parents of typical good kids often make the mistake of relinquishing any responsibility toward them after they turn legal age. While it’s great to have so much trust in your child, they still need you to be there for them. Many young students often feel abandoned by parents who completely brush them off once they’re of-age. Make sure that you confront your own struggles with parenting at this stage rather than avoiding it altogether.
Mo Mulla is a work from home dad who enjoys reading and listening to music, He loves being a dad and husband to a growing family. He also loves writing about his passions and hopes to change the world, 1 blog post at a time!
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