Rules For Adult Children Living At Home During College Breaks

By Christina Newberry

When adult children return home for college breaks – whether it’s just for a long weekend, or for several months over the summer holidays – it’s important to talk about what your expectations (and theirs) will be for how you will all live peacefully together.

Your adult children may feel that, since they are adults who no longer live with you full-time, they should be treated as guests, without any rules on restrictions for their behavior or their comings and goings. But the simple fact is that your adult children are nothing like other houseguests. For one thing, you’d be very unlikely to have other adults stay in your home for weeks or months – and if you did, you would certainly expect them to adapt their lifestyle to meet your needs and what makes you comfortable.

Secondly, the relationship between parents and children will always be a parent-kid relationship, with all that that entails, no matter how old the child is. An adult child visiting for the Christmas or summer break may expect that you’re going to do their laundry and cook their meals, whereas you may expect that you’ll finally get a break from cooking every night because your adult child will be around to help out. If you don’t talk about this beforehand, you’ll both end up disappointed, resentful, and angry.

The most important thing you can do is talk about what the living situation will be like before the adult child is home for any length of time, and make sure you all agree about what’s acceptable, and what works for everyone. A written agreement can be an excellent way to make sure you cover all the issues and everyone is on the same page.

Make sure you talk about and agree upon guidelines for:

– Household rules, including swearing, late nights, and noise: Remember that your college kid has been dealing with college-style language, music, and hours. Talk about what you’re comfortable with, and what you’re not.

– Who covers additional expenses: If your adult kid is just home for a long weekend, this probably isn’t an issue. But if they’re home for three months, who’s going to pay for the extra groceries they consume and the electricity they use? What about long-distance calls they make keeping up with college friends?

– Fair use of shared resources: Make sure you all agree on appropriate use of the family computer and TV. You don’t want to have battles over the remote just as someone’s favorite show is about to begin. And be very clear about any guidelines for using (and gassing up!) the family car.

– The thorny issue of overnight guests: Whether you like it or not, your kid’s probably been having sleepovers with his girlfriend while at school. Can he have her stay over in his room at your home?

– Privacy rules for both you and your adult children: These rules will be different than they were when your kid lived at home full-time. You should agree to stay out of her room and her mail, and she should agree to stay out of yours.

– Which chores your grown kids will be responsible for: A summer break with no help from your adult kids could leave you fuming. Make sure you agree on what’s expected beforehand so your kid doesn’t feel imposed upon, and you don’t feel resentful.

If you need help setting up an agreement with your adult kids for their breaks at home, or if you just need some advice on how to renegotiate your relationship now that your kids are grown, you can find resources and tips at

About the Author: Christina Newberry is the author of The Hands-on Guide to Surviving Adult Children Living at Home. For more detailed communication strategies that can help you establish a healthy home base for your adult children’s college breaks, along with a customizable “Under one Roof” agreement template and household budget calculator, visit her website at