Saturday, January 3, 2004

Home from college: Mom and Dad rule



By Maggie Downs
The Cincinnati Enquirer

MIDDLE GROUND
Lori Crosby, a child clinical psychologist, has these tips for finding some middle ground:

Teenagers should understand that their parents' concerns deal with safety issues.

Parents are more likely to be flexible if children are honest about their plans.

Parents should ask about their child's schedule and whereabouts.

Teenagers are more likely to receive more freedom if they have a proven track record of responsibility.

Be patient with each other. Parents are worried. Children are trying to explore their independence.

The holiday season has meant some adjustments for many college students who are back home.

"My house, my rules," parents say.

Or, at least, that's what they used to say.

While kids relish the freedom of campus, dorms and even apartments, some have found that home is more lenient than it used to be.

"We don't really have rules; we have guidelines," said Maddy Martinez, 19, a freshman at the University of Michigan. "My parents are pretty lenient and understanding.

"However, I'm used to doing whatever I please at school. And when I come home, I can't always decide everything for myself."

For example, Martinez has a curfew. But it's negotiable.

"On the weekdays, they don't like me coming home real late, because they have to work the next morning," she said. "So I have to be back around 1:30-ish (a.m.), but if I need to come home later, that's fine."

Problems can arise, though, as college kids try to adjust to their parents' old set of rules, said child clinical psychologist Lori Crosby, of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

"This is a hard balance to find," Crosby said. "Children want to protect their newfound independence, and parents want their children to be safe and respect their rules."

The key to this is good communication, said Crosby. A heart-to-heart talk can work wonders.

"The kids can try to negotiate a little bit and show that they're a little more responsible," she said. "And parents should be a little more flexible.

"They shouldn't think that just because the curfew was midnight before, it should be midnight now."

For Kia Grant, 18, of Mount Washington, that hasn't been a problem.

"It's like I naturally slip back into the way things were before I left," she said.

Grant said she's never had a specific curfew. But she does have to let her parents know her plans, and comes home at a reasonable hour.

She also learned the ropes from an older sister.

"I kind of got to see how they reacted when she came home from school, so I kind of knew what to do and what not to do," Grant said. "I learned what would make my parents react."

For Greg Meckstroth, 18, of Harrison, a longstanding curfew was eliminated when he left for college.

"I just have to check in with them and let them know where I am, which is pretty much a pain in the butt," said the Ohio State University freshman.

But coming home from school has required other adjustments. For one, he has to share his car with his sister. And he expected to come home to his old room - instead, his bed was missing sheets.

To Meckstroth, the best thing about going away to college is the sense of independence.

"Stepping back into this role at home, I feel like I'm living two different lives," he said. "It's hard living both roles."

E-mail mdowns@enquirer.com




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