A reader suggested this topic (I love such requests). Before I get to some suggestions, let me say that I’m basing this column exclusively on my clinical experience and intuition. With that caveat in mind, here are 10 suggestions to consider in regards to disciplining your college student who has come home for a visit.
- Figure out what is not okay with you and let your college student know about that before he or she arrives home (e.g., having a love interest share his or her bedroom, anything that’s illegal).
- With the exception of matters reviewed in the previous tip, try to not legislate behaviors that you can’t legislate while your college student is away (e.g., how much s/he studies, whether or not s/he goes to religious services, how much exercise s/he gets, what s/he eats). At this point in the game it’s unlikely your efforts will influence your college student’s attitude or behaviors very much; it’s more likely that you’ll create tension between you. Plus, I bet your college student would score high on a multiple-choice test regarding your attitudes on such topics.
- If you have to make points that might not be welcomed, try to do so by asking questions instead of making statements. For example, “I know you said you haven’t been doing well in math. What do you think the pros and cons would be of going to talk to the professor during office hours?”
- Try not to get your feelings hurt when your college student prioritizes hanging out with friends over spending time with you. It’s normative for him or her to want to do that. (If you have some special event you want him or her to attend, provide as much advance notice as possible.)
- When you are communicating focus on listening, providing empathy and offering specific and proportionate positive feedback. S/he may act like this doesn’t matter, but it usually matters a lot.
- Ask for your college student’s advice and opinions and be open to his or her wisdom.
- 7. Let your young adult know that you’re available to talk about anything and that you don’t plan to be intrusive or nosy.
- 8. This goes for year round: take advantage of texting. Your college student may be more use to communicating through this method than others. Many parents of teens and young adults report that their progeny seem more open when texting than when communicating through other venues.
- The only reasonable punishments you probably have available to you involve not allowing access to those luxuries, services or resources that you provide (e.g., your car, the cell phone plan you pay for, a stipend you provide). If you believe your teen is at risk for violating the primary rules you’ve established in #1 above, let him or her know that access to such and so is contingent upon his or her compliance with this or that (e.g., access to your vehicle during week #2 is contingent upon using it responsibly during week #1). It’s important to establish this up front with a young adult (i.e., imagine how you’d want to be treated, and not treated, by a boss).
- If conflict between you and your adult child has become a regular part of your relationship (e.g., s/he is squandering tuition monies by dialing it in at school), use the time at home to schedule a consultation with a skilled family therapist. For a referral click here.
In closing I’ll share links to two related blog entries: strategies for when your adult child moves back in with you and an entry on helping college students to get the most out of the academic experience at college.