Surviving the Summer With a College Student

Parents’ Guidelines for Returning College Students


Remember back in August or September when your child went off to college? You wondered if your little baby would be able to handle everything, if you had given him or her enough skills, and how you would survive without the plip-plop of big feet around the house. Over time, everyone made adjustments to the new normal. You enjoyed having the house and TV to yourself, and didn’t have to clean up dishes and dirty laundry everywhere.

Now that child is coming back home for the summer, you’re wondering how everyone is going to adjust again.

Part of the adjustment is going to depend on whether your child is returning from a first year of college or the last year of college. Each summer is a little different as your student progresses from teenager to adult. As the parent, you still want to exert a little control over how things happen in your home, but you also want to keep instilling a growing sense of independence and responsibility. Here are a few things that might make the summer just a little easier:

  • Open a Line of Communication: This is a new day, so try not to revert to old habits on either side. You can’t treat your child like you did when he or she was in high school, but they are most certainly not a guest in your house either. Sit down and negotiate your expectations for the summer. Depending on the child’s age, you may not have a curfew, but it is not unreasonable to request that your child let you know what time he or she is coming home. Your child was capable of taking care of laundry and keeping a room in some sense of order for the year and that shouldn’t change now. Set out what you are willing to do, and what you expect your child to do as a household member. If your child thinks he or she shouldn’t have to do anything, you may need to charge some type of rent for your services.
  • Set Money Expectations: Unless you are independently wealthy or your child has won a “full ride” scholarship, paying for college is probably putting a strain on the family budget or your retirement plans. Tell your child that you expect him or her to get a job over the summer, and that part of that money will go towards paying for college expenses. Also try to encourage him or her to continue looking for college scholarships.
  • Discuss a Budget for Next Year: Review how you think the year went financially, and discuss whether you think your child made wise money choices. If you allowed your student to use credit cards or student loans for living expenses, analyze how that money was spent and look at the resulting payment requirements. Set a budget for the next college year, and develop a strategy together to help your child live within that amount.
  • Be Aware of Student Loans:  No matter what year your child completed, you should review how much of it was financed by student loans. Look ahead to calculate repayment needs upon graduation so you can decide together how much to borrow for the next school year. If your child graduated, you will need to have a much more serious talk about repayment.

Welcome your child home with open arms, and enjoy the time together. In August, you’ll want to look back and be able to say, “Now that was a great summer.”