Tips for welcoming your kids home from college

May 8, 2008 at 2:08 p.m. ET

Your children have been away at school all year, but now it's time for them to come home. With their newfound independence, they are sure to return differently than when you sent them off. If you want to enjoy the next 3 or 4 months with your now adult offspring, you're going to have to negotiate a new relationship together.

Female College Student

Psychiatrist and "Today" contributor, Gail Saltz has several ideas for parents to ease into summer when their college aged children return home.

The taste of freedom

Your child has spent the last year coming and going as they please, hanging out with friends and generally doing whatever it is they want. Now they have to come home and live with some order. However, you can't expect them to live by the same rules as when they were in high school. If you want to co-exist peacefully, you may have to be a little more lenient than you were before your child left for college.

Dr. Saltz suggests you allow your child to sleep in late for the first few days and then start rousing them by 10 a.m. or so, in order for the family to get on with their day. Also as they have been staying out till all hours of the night, don't expect them to come home by midnight. However, that doesn't mean you should be left at home worrying about them. Insist they tell you where they will be and when they will be home. If they don't make it home by the scheduled time, it's not too much to ask for a phone call.


Things like curfew will be a sticking point between you and your kids. When they return home, you should probably set some ground rules in order to eliminate future conflicts. Topics such as the use of the car, the Internet, household chores, having friends over, etc., should be ironed out and discussed. You may have to make some compromises, but you should decide what you can and cannot live with before you sit down for the conversation.

No longer a child

Your child is an adult now, and you must treat them as such. If you come at them with your list of rules and demands, they are more likely to rebel than to fall into line. If you want to connect with your child, approach them as an adult, present your case and then listen to theirs. Having a rational conversation is sure to form a better relationship than acting as an authoritative parent.

Along with their point of view, you must also get used to their new persona. They may have changed their appearance, style, viewpoint or friends and you need to accept the new changes in them. You can't expect your child to be the same person they were before they experienced independence, so treat them like an adult and accept them for who they are now.

Happy to have them home

After all the negotiating, show your child how happy you are that they came home. Let them have time with their friends and allow them to spread their wings, but there's nothing wrong with asking them to spend time with you as well. If they know you appreciate them and aren't just concerned with the rules of the house, they'll be more likely to want to return home for the next holiday or summer break.