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College kids coming home for summer? They say timing is everything.

Everyone falls into a routine. We get up, maybe we go to work or school, we eat and go to bed at night on a general, if not regular, schedule. I know my wife and I fell into a schedule when both of our kids went away to school.

But then they came home.

The “home from college” schedule and the “empty nest” schedule are like Venus and Mars. Even with summer jobs, my kids keep time to a different beat. Getting up early is no reason not to stay out late and if there’s no reason to get up in the morning you might think they were working the night shift of days gone by – getting home at first light. The real trouble started when we tried to “synchronize our watches.” First of all, nobody under 25 even wears a watch or uses an alarm clock. That’s what phones are for. Second, commitment to a schedule is just a guidepost. Making plans in advance and sticking to a schedule are skills that have gone the way of typesetting and hand written thank you notes.

Here’s the thing. Our two college-age children have been sent off to school to learn, socialize and build skills that will help them successfully transition into adulthood. One of our children is of legal age to drink alcohol and we talk often about responsibility. Our other child is not of legal drinking age yet, but sure knows our consequences for drinking underage. They’re on their own, making their own decisions. Remember…that’s what we, parents, wanted. We don’t call them each night during the school year to make sure they’re doing their homework or have turned off their laptops and gone to sleep on time.

So while they’re home, my advice is to set priorities but insist on communications. Even if we may plan to be asleep when they come home, we still want to know where they are going and “generally” when and if they’re coming home. Make sure they know some gatherings are important and you expect them to be there, and be there on time. Beyond that, they need to respect the rest of the family and be considerate of others. And we need to respect that they’ve been making their own decisions for the last nine months and deserve the right to continue doing so over the next three.  

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