A few years ago, when my oldest graduated from high school, I asked some of my most trusted friends for their wisdom on the next phase of raising children. Eighteen years doesn’t necessarily sit well as instant adulthood for me, but it is definitely very close. So how do you help point your children in the right direction, given them freedom, guide them, and help them make wise decisions? Especially if they are going to remain at home a while longer?
We want to give them more freedom, but how much? It’s very tricky.
Thankfully, these wonderful friends responded with some wise words, and I would like to share them here.
Here’s the question I posed:
Claudia is my first one to graduate, turn 18, have a job and a license to drive. This changes things some, I know, as far as rules and expectations go. We are working on what our family rules are at this point in the kids’ lives, but I’d love to find out what kind of things you do, since you have had a few reach this stage.Do you update their rules, curfews, guidelines for outings with friends, etc.? Do you oversee their finances in any way? Expect them to pay for certain things?
From my friend A. –
I will gladly share what we have done. I begin with a caveat, these are things we have done, tried to do, have done with some children at certain times and then have had to adapt as life occurs. It has been a learning experience for everyone and with each one.
If the graduate is still in our house, we still hold certain rules: like– ultimately we are in charge. 🙂 We have tried to continue to use these first years out of high school as teaching/learning times. Loosening the rules and regulations, while at the same time monitoring if good decisions are being made. We don’t mind stepping back in and tightening the reigns if we see bad decisions being made. This is a time of beginning to make their own decisions while being in a safe place if those decisions don’t work out the way they thought. We try to keep a close ear to their thoughts, decisions, want to’s, etc., letting them make their decisions while offering wisdom when needed. We have found, because of the years spent prior to age 18, that most of the time they have gratefully accepted our advice and acted accordingly.
There are two possible scenarios: the child is in college or saving for college OR the child is just working. If they are working to pay for college, we have continued to pay for their room/board, insurances, gas, etc. They have begun to pay for their own clothes, though I help out some when the new school year begins. This has made them have to think about what new clothes they really need. We try to do all we can to let their money go toward college. The budget for the ones working in food service has been to try to live off their tips. I know they don’t always make it, especially in the summer when there is more time for fun, but that is the goal. Our ultimate goal is for them to get through their bachelor’s degree debt free, if possible. This means they work and we help chip in. We generally watch to see what they seem to be spending their money on. IF it seems to be “too much” clothes, “too much” fun, we will say something and remind them of their obligations. They have regular chores to help out as members of the family.IF they are at home and NOT working toward college then we would expect them to pay all car expenses (gas, insurance, etc.) and clothes, phone, etc. We will continue to do room and board but there are lots of ways for them to do their share: paint that shed, keep the lawn mowed, mend that fence, etc. We would also help them form a budget and start toward saving: a new car, down-payment on a house, etc. There is no need to work and not have a bigger goal to be saving toward.
General house rules: We have stopped with the curfew. BUT we expect wisdom to be shown. We had one that forgot he was suppose to be grown up and be responsible that first semester after graduation. We stepped in, had the talk and set some realistic rules. We backed off on those rules when he began to show wisdom and monitor himself. We generally remind them that school, work and church are first. So that means a decent bedtime on weeknights and before an early shift. But we don’t wait up on them. Though we might ask nonchalantly the next morning what time they got in. 😉
As you have probably noticed we have found this to be a time of guiding. A lot of letting them make the decision but guiding in that decision process. Are we still heavily involved in their decision? Yes, but now we try to do it in more a guiding pattern rather then a rule pattern. Each year I find they are more and more adults and less and less children. Treating them as such while guiding seems to be working the best.”
From my friend R. –
While the kids still lived at home, we expected them to continue with their household chores (taking out the trash, emptying the dishwasher, cleaning up after pets, etc.). They do their own laundry and participate in family cleaning days, where the floors are vacuumed, bathrooms cleaned, and general straightening up is done. As part of the family, they help mess things up, so need to cooperate in cleaning the house. This can be hard to coordinate when they have different schedules with school and work. They just have to find the time to do their chores, and I have had to remind them at times.
We always wanted to know when the kids would be home, and as they had reasonable requests to stay out later, we relaxed the curfew. For a non-school night, at 18 years old, the curfew was 11 pm. Beginning at 19 or 20, midnight was okay, as long as the kid expressed the wish. We also encouraged them to go out with a group of friends, and have a destination (not just “hanging out,” unless it was at a home where parents would be home and aware of what was going on).
We had lots of discussions about temptations, and especially when friends didn’t always make the best decisions. Not as a way of shaming the friends, but acknowledging that a different decision might have been a more intelligent way to go. We have also stressed to each kid that if he feels in danger, whether it is his fault or not, he is to call us and we will pick him up any time and anywhere. We may not be happy if he has made a bad decision, but we will get over it and we want him to be safe. We have never allowed ours to drink before 21, and then stressed responsible drinking (defining it as X drinks – beers or mixed drinks – per hour, getting food before and during). If he has any chance to drink, a non-drinking friend must go along to drive. Our grown children have frequently been the designated drivers! Husband and I don’t drink, but are not so naive as to think the kids won’t be around other people who drink in their college environment. We have also stressed the human misery that family members have gone through with alcoholism.
We have welcomed their friends into our home and have treated them like family.
It hasn’t always gone smoothly. One bristled at family chores. One stayed out way too late many times. I let them know over and over that they were an example for the younger kids.
My kids have always paid for their own college (scrambling for scholarships) and (used) car. They could use an older family pickup truck, if they coordinated schedules with us, so were not under any pressure that they had to buy a car. They also had to pay a certain amount towards the family car insurance policy. When they started college, we helped them set up their own budgets with items that were important to them. As a way to economize, we encouraged them to pack their lunch from home instead of eating out. If they seemed responsible with money, we didn’t insist on any oversight, although they didn’t have huge sums to manage. We did ask them to get advice on large expenditures, such as a laptop, and helped them investigate the quality of used cars before they bought them (our advice was not always followed, but became a teachable moment!).
I do agree with a graduated lessening of rules, and it needs to be at a rate that makes sense for that kid. Some will be more responsible than others. We also ask their advice at times, figuring their judgment will be stronger when it is exercised.
Let your kids know that you will always love them, even when things may not go perfectly. You may not be crazy at times about things that they do, but their actions are separated from their worth as human beings. Please tell them this over and over, so they are sure to remember.
Another thing I say frequently:
“Nothing worthwhile happens after midnight.”
From my friend L. –
What I’ve Learned
Nicki Truesdell is a 2nd-generation homeschooler and mother to 5. She loves books, freedom, history and quilts, and blogs about all of these at nickitruesdell.com. She believes that homeschooling can be relaxed and that history is fun, and both can be done with minimal cost or stress, no matter your family’s circumstances. Nicki is a member of the Texas Home Educators Advisory Board and The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Review Crew. She also teaches ESL online from home. You can also find her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.