Home From College – Do You Require Your Big Kids to Follow Family Rules?

So, the big kids are home from college for a three or four-week winter break. It’s part of the ups and downs of your kiddos leaving the nest. About the time you get comfortable with your son or daughter not being home, they are home again for the holidays, then spring break, and then summer break. You’ve finally gotten into a routine with the younger siblings at home, and then the older one who has been living on his own comes home. If you do not plan in advance, you just might get more than you bargained for.

Home From College – Do You Require Your Big Kids To Follow Family Rules?

To avoid conflict in the family, it is important to lay the groundwork with your college students about expectations when they return home for the holidays. This is especially important when you have younger children still at home because the actions and behaviors of the older ones will influence the actions and behavior of the younger ones.

Don’t forget to have a plan and guidelines in place if college friends or significant others come home for the holidays, too. If you and your spouse have not talked about the expectations of your college student bringing home a significant other for the holidays, you should.

Communication Is Important When Kids Come Home from College

Communication is key. It is important to have a conversation with your college student at least a couple of weeks before he comes home about what his plans are for winter break. Then have a phone or facetime conversation about family plans and expectations for the break. In our family, we decided not to force our college students to come to family functions. After all, who wants to force a 20-year-old to do anything he doesn’t want to do?

Instead, we let him know the family schedule for the time he will be at home and let him decide. “Your sister has a ukulele recital on Dec. 15. We are planning to decorate the Christmas tree on Dec. 17. We are having the neighbor’s over on Dec. 19 and going to Granny and Granddad’s on Dec. 24th.” Then we ask our college student if he plans to come to the events. So, far he has come to all the family functions. Sometimes, he leaves early to meet up with friends but he always goes.

Do Kids Home from College Have a Curfew?

Home From College – Do You Require Your Big Kids To Follow Family Rules?

College students are used to making their own curfews or not having one at all. They are used to living in a dormitory or an off-campus apartment without any supervision. In our house, the curfew is where we continue to bump heads but we do not negotiate.

Read More: 12 Terrific Ideas for College Care Packages

Our college student wants to stay out late on nights that we have to get up for work and our daughter for school. It does not matter that it is Tuesday night for college students home on winter break. That simply will not work. We do not have a big house, it is impossible for someone coming in late not to wake up the whole house. And, you know, it’s different when your big kids are home, you worry until you know they are safe in their beds.

Home From College – Do You Require Your Big Kids To Follow Family Rules?

On work and school nights, we ask that our college student be home by 10 p.m. as a courtesy to his family. He begrudgingly obliges. We have explained that his actions affect everyone’s sleep habits. It is also an example to our 11-year-old daughter. On the weekend, we are more flexible. We simply ask what time he will be home. He typically comes home by midnight or 1 a.m. when he is home from college. We just ask for him to communicate and be respectful of the sleep needs of the rest of the family.

Home from College with a Girlfriend, a Boyfriend or Friends

Home From College – Do You Require Your Big Kids To Follow Family Rules?

Of course, you want to meet your college student’s girlfriend, boyfriend, or friends. You tell your college son they are welcome to come home with him any time. But, be ready, because your college student will bring them. It may not be the first year, but soon enough, he will come home with a couple of buddies one weekend and a girlfriend for you to meet for the holidays.

Have a plan in advance about sleeping arrangements. Your college student is used to hanging out with his significant other in their dorm room or apartment. If it’s the first time your college student has brought a girlfriend/boyfriend home from college to spend a few nights at your house, you need to have a plan otherwise there will be some awkwardness.

Home From College – Do You Require Your Big Kids To Follow Family Rules?

We did not have a plan. The first time our son brought his college girlfriend home to stay, he assumed his girlfriend would bunk in his room and that he would sleep on the couch. But he also assumed it was ok to hang out in his room with the door closed all evening or in the mornings.

At the time, our daughter was in fifth grade, we pulled our son aside and asked that the bedroom door stay open when he is home from college with his girlfriend. We said, “Your sister may be at her first boyfriend’s house in middle school or high school, what would you want her to do in that situation?” He agreed the door would stay open.

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Have a discussion about alcohol and substances in your home, too. We make sure our son knows he can call us for a ride no matter what at any time. But we also reiterate that information every now and then as he nods and repeats, “I know, Mom. I know.” 

Of course, we trust our son, but we know that a study from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that 30 percent of full-time college students took part in binge drinking the previous month, and 20 percent used an illicit drug the previous month. College is the place where many try their first drink of alcohol.  

Home From College and Chores

Home From College – Do You Require Your Big Kids To Follow Family Rules?

Before your college student returns home for the holidays, remind him that this is his home. He’s not just visiting for the weekend. Ask him if he can pick up a few of his old chores while home for four weeks. Don’t assume that your college student will fall back into the routine of taking the trash out on Tuesdays or unloading the dishwasher every other day.  

Read More: Chore List by Age: Easy Ways to Assign Family Chores to Kids as Young As 2

But if you ask and communicate, then no one assumes. And, better yet, your son is made to feel not like a guest but an appreciated member of the family when he is home from college. Sometimes it’s tough on the college student to see little family dynamic changes or changes to the home when they come for the holidays. Be sensitive to their feelings, communicate changes, and don’t assume.

Holiday Traditions When Home From College

Home From College – Do You Require Your Big Kids To Follow Family Rules?

When your child leaves the nest for college, the holidays are forever a bit different. Traditions change as the family grows and changes. That’s OK, just be ready for it. Talk to your college student about his/her favorite holiday traditions – chopping down the Christmas tree, decorating the tree, the neighborhood party, filling Christmas gift baskets for families in need, or baking cookies. When you know which traditions your big kid really enjoys and wants to still participate then adapt your December calendar, as best as possible, so those family traditions can be done when your student is home from college.


Communication is the answer. If your children are younger or in high school, take a few moments to think about how things will be when they come home from college for a visit. Those five minutes can help you tweak family rules now that will lay the groundwork for future visits home from college with friends, boyfriends, and girlfriends.

If your college student is headed home from college shortly for the holidays, then embrace the time with your big kid with respect and understanding. Know that most of the time he is living and working independently without constant rules and direction from you. Just communicate directly, and don’t make assumptions about your college student. Be open. Make some hot cocoa and let the conversation happen naturally.

Source: Gateway Foundation, Collegiate Parent, and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Photo Credit: Unsplash, Pexels

WANT TO READ MORE?
Check out this article on Non-Traditional Alternatives for High School.

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Carla J. Eskew
Carla J. Eskew is a freelance writer, wife, and mom of two children who are nine years apart. She is a Scout leader with 15 years of experience in Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. She serves as a volunteer at school, church, and with the homeless population. She loves road trips, sightseeing, camping, and pilates. But, her new love is her 1-year-old black standard poodle puppy, Midnight Shadow.

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