- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 27, 2004

The following are recommendations to parents whose college-age children, particularly freshmen, are coming home for the holidays. Most of the advice is directed toward students, too:

• Talk in advance to the student about family obligations, such as daily household chores and family dinners. It’s important to be specific about when the child’s presence is expected.

• Parents need to manage their expectations and be understanding when their children want to spend most of their time visiting with old neighborhood and high school friends.

• Discuss issues such as the use of the family car, curfews and information sharing.

• Days leading up to school vacations are usually hectic, so parents should not be surprised if the child sleeps more than seems normal.

• To avoid surprises, parents should talk to their children about any changes in their appearance — some students get piercings and tattoos during college.

• Be prepared for new topics of conversation. Many students become more politically engaged, particularly in election years.

• Parents also should be prepared to see students change their churchgoing habits during their college years. Many are less likely to go to church regularly.

• Other changes can include a new, or first serious, girlfriend or boyfriend. Parents should talk to their children about what the house rules are — for example, whether or not the young couple can share a bedroom.

• It’s important to set aside some time for a candid discussion about the first few months of college.

• Students need to be respectful of their parents’ feelings and wishes. They should not treat their home like a hotel and their parents as hired help.

• If the break is long, such as the winter break, parents can help the student plan for summer internships and jobs, making the vacation productive in addition to being relaxing.

Sources: Interviews with James Boyle, president of College Parents of America; and Marjorie Savage, author of “You’re on Your Own (But I’m Here If You Need Me): Mentoring Your Child During the College Years,” Fireside Books, 2003.

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