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Setting Rules to Survive Your Stay-at-Home Teen

April 28th, 2016     By Father Steven Boes, Boys Town National Executive Director

Parent-Child Relationships, Respect, School, Teens

Your teenager is graduating from high school! What a great accomplishment! As a parent, you’re feeling pride and happiness – and maybe a little bit of apprehension about your teen’s plans for the upcoming summer.

If your adolescent child will be living at home until college starts in the fall or until he or she begins a job and moves out, that apprehension level might be somewhere between nervous and panicky.

Here’s the rub:  How do you parent a child who is still living under your roof but now wants to be treated like an adult and experience the new freedom that goes with being 18? (You might face a similar situation if your son or daughter is moving back home from college for the summer.)

The good news is this doesn’t have to turn into a big problem. The best approach is to sit down with your “house guest” and come up with a set of house rules that are reasonable and fair, and that can actually help you build a stronger relationship with your son or daughter.

The key to success is giving your teen some ownership of these rules with the understanding that you are still responsible for enforcing them.  You know your teen better than anyone, so establish rules that fit his or her maturity level and personality.

Here are a few areas to consider:

Drinking alcohol. This one is fairly simple. If your teen is not of legal age to drink, he or she shouldn’t. Like any other behavior, not following this rule should result in some sort of negative consequence.

Laundry, cooking and other chores. Hopefully, your teen has already developed some good habits when it comes to helping around the house and taking care of his or her own things. If not, this is a good time to discuss the ways of the world and the concept of pulling one’s own weight. Set up a schedule of household chores you expect your teen to help with. This doesn’t mean turning your son or daughter into a butler or a maid for three months and sitting back while he or she does all the work. Instead, it means making the most of this opportunity to teach your teen independent-living skills (something we do with our kids at Boys Town everyday) that will come in handy in the future and including him or her as a partner in your home’s daily operation.

Curfews and reporting whereabouts.  This can be a tricky issue, mainly because you may get some pushback from your teen on whether there even needs to be any rules for going out (or staying out). The goal here would be to find a middle ground where your teen can have more freedom to socialize outside the home and you can have some assurances that he or she will be safe and will let you know if he or she is staying overnight at a friend’s. Again, make these decisions together with your teen and develop rules that fit his or her sense of responsibility and decision making.

Visits and overnight stays by friends of the opposite sex.  This situation might be more likely to occur with a child who is already attending college and returns home for the summer. You’ll have to decide your own comfort level with having your child’s boyfriend or girlfriend stay overnight in your home. This should involve an honest discussion about sleeping arrangements and your expectations for behaviors.  After all, it is your home and you still call the shots.

Encourage your teen to continue to pray and attend worship services with the family. One way your teen will exercise his or her independence is by being less involved in family activities and more involved with friends and activities outside the home. That’s understandable, but it’s still important that you find ways to keep your family ties strong by letting your teen know he or she is a loved and valued family member.

If your family regularly attends worship services, you should expect any older children still living at home to follow this spiritual tradition.  Young adults often begin to stray from their childhood faith during this time in their life, but it is still good for them to attend services even if they are struggling with their beliefs.   Insisting on participation at services as part of the “cost” of living at home will show your child how much value you place on spiritual matters.  Even if your teen is grumpy about it, he or she still is strongly learning from your example and from worshiping as a family.

The transition from adolescence to adulthood can be a bumpy road for the whole family when parents and their older children who are still living at home dig in their heels and refuse to compromise on house rules.  Treating your teen like the young adult he or she is becoming, while setting reasonable expectations for behavior, can go a long way toward making the transition smoother and more pleasant for everyone.

For more advise on parenting your teen, check out the Parenting Teens Guide.

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