Happiest College Breaks Start With These Boundaries

Kindly and Firmly Establish These Expectations Ahead of Time

You’re a loving parent—so of course you want to make your kid’s future college breaks as warm and memorable as possible. But will you be able to do that if your newly-flown offspring comes home snarly and inconsiderate?


What if your newly-minted college student decides to stay out until all hours on her first night home, and you toss and turn and lose sleep until 3:00 a.m. because you’re worried there’s been a car accident?

What if your child brings home overnight guests without asking—as though your house is his own?

What if your new “adult” college student decides to spend the entire break watching TV and playing video games—while you take care of all the grocery shopping, meal prep, serving, decorating, cleaning, and snow removal that keeps your household running smoothly?

Will this make for a warm, memorable college break for you, Mom and Dad?

Or will you spend the break weeks squelching down resentment, biting your tongue, and chafing inside that your child is not turning out the way you’d hoped?

Here’s a great way to head off these problems early on.

Have a friendly, honest conversation with this child early on, in the weeks before the college break.

Cheerfully let your child know what life is going to look like when he or she is home on college breaks.

1. Tell your daughter that you’ll expect her to be considerate and fun to be around.

“Honey, when you come home on college breaks, we expect that you’ll be considerate and kind to all the people in our home—just as all responsible adults are when visiting someone else’s house.”

2. Tell your son that you expect him to let you know his whereabouts.

“Hey, Bud—we’re going to ask that when you’re staying with us during a college break and you go out for a day or for an evening, you’ll let us know where you’re going and when you plan to be back so we’ll have no reason to worry. If you can’t get back by the time you tell us, that’s OK—just call or text us and let us know your revised plan.”

3. Tell your daughter that you’ll expect her to ask first before bringing home overnight guests.

“Sweetheart, when you’re staying with us during college breaks, we’ll want you to request permission from us before having any overnight guests.”

4. Tell your son that you’ll expect him to cheerfully chip in with household chores, as all responsible adults do when visiting other people’s houses.

Put in the phrase: “That seems reasonable, doesn’t it?”

5. [This one’s very important] Tell your college-aged kids just how long their “college breaks” can be.

“Son, and oh—one other thing. Remember that staying at our house is free for you! We’re glad to have you stay with us rent-free as long as you’re enrolled in (and making good progress through) a full-time academic or job training program. If you decide at any point to not go to school or job training anymore, don’t worry. That’ll be OK; we can work together to help you find a place of your own—or you can pay us market rate rent to stay in your childhood bedroom.”

(Be kind and cheerful, but firm as you say this. It may one day be the boundary that protects you from having to support college-dropout adult children into their 30’s and beyond.)

“Are you kidding?!?!”

“Are you kidding?!?” I can hear some parents bellowing. “What 18–24-year-old kid is going to want to live under these conditions?”


Remember, our goal is to treat our children with deep and tender love at every point on their growing up journeys, but at the same time make Mom and Dad’s soft padded nest just uncomfortable enough that the little birds can’t wait to fly.

Want a little more help from me on this subject?

My article on “7 Criteria To Decide: Should Your Healthy 20-Something Kids Live With You?” is here.

My emphatic post recommending the must-read Meg Jay book The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter–And How to Make the Most of Them Now is here.

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What about you?

What strategies have you found for having a great time with kids who are home on college breaks? Comment below or LIKE Jeannie Burlowski Author on Facebook, find this post on that page, and let’s talk about it there.

Who is Jeannie Burlowski? 

Jeannie is a full-time academic strategist, podcast host, and sought-after speaker for students ages 12–26, their parents, and the professionals who serve them. Her writing, speaking, and podcasting help parents set their kids up to graduate college debt-free, ready to move directly into careers they excel at and love. Her work has been featured in publications such as The Huffington Post, USA Today, Parents Magazineand US News and World Report, and on CBS News.

Jeannie also helps students apply to law, medical, business, and grad school at her website GetIntoMedSchool.com. You can follow her on Twitter @JBurlowski.