10 Tips for Managing Screen Time During The School Year
We live in a digital world, so screens are a huge part of our everyday lives. And with school back in session, kids use screens more frequently during the day. Managing screen time during the school year is a big deal for all of us. And since we all spend a lot of time with technology, it’s up to us to help our children have a healthy relationship with their screens.
Managing screen time during the school year is essential for our kids’ development.
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, too much screen time can have side effects, including:1
- Sleeping problems.
- Poor self-image.
- Less time spent outdoors.
- Lower grades.
- Attention disorders.
Define how much screen time is enough.
The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t have a set recommendation for kids 6 and older. They do recommend that parents set consistent limits and ensure that screens don’t replace sleep and physical activity.2
Explain to your kids that too much time sitting watching screens is not healthy.3,4 Establish consequences if they break the rules you set for them.
Practice what you preach.
The hardest part of managing your child’s screen time may be managing your own. Kids learn by watching. They will establish their relationship with technology based on your relationship with technology. If you always have the TV on or scroll through your phone whenever you have free time, they will probably do the same.
If you want your child to learn responsible technology use, model it for them.
Adjust the limits based on the day.
Different days may call for different screen limits. For some families, school days may mean no screens. For others, screen usage may be significantly reduced during school nights. Weekends may get extended screen time. You know your family and should do what’s best for your household. The most essential aspect of screen time is balance. Kids need physical activity and creativity. Make sure they are spending time being active, whether structured or unstructured.
Make bedrooms screen-free.
Keep TVs, video games, and computers in common areas. This keeps kids from disappearing with a screen for hours. It also helps you know what they are using screens for and how much time they spend on them. Screen-free bedrooms are a little more challenging with phones and tablets. Charging devices (even your own) overnight in a common area can be helpful.
Studies show that using screens before bedtime makes it harder for kids to fall asleep. It also reduces sleep quality. And when kids are tired, it’s harder for them to learn.5
Give your kids other options to keep them active instead of screen time.
They can take walks, ride bikes or scooters, or play outside. Offer other indoor activities, like board games or crafts. Set aside time to play with them. Kids need to be active daily. Even if you can’t be active with them, you can encourage and support them in their activities.
Have them earn screen time during the school year (and beyond).
It’s okay to make your kids complete homework and specific tasks or chores before you allow them to have screen time. There are different ways parents can put this into practice. One option is that homework and chores come first. Then they can have a set amount of screen time depending on how long it is until bedtime. Another is to allow them to earn screen time by completing chores. You can create a system where a task earns X amount of screen time.
Encourage your children’s creativity.
If your child loves watching videos or playing video games, encourage them to create their own. My daughter loves to make videos when we travel. She wants to show others the places she visits and tell them about her experiences. We don’t share these, but she is learning how to vlog. When she gets a little older, she can learn how to create these and make them shareable.
Engage with your child’s technology.
Watch videos with your kids and learn to play their games. Both of my kids enjoy watching YouTube creators. We watch with them so we can understand what they are watching, but also learn with them. My son loves to watch a former NASA engineer, and my daughter enjoys cooking videos. We’ve learned a lot as a family through their videos. It’s also common in our house to have family video game nights. Let’s just say MarioKart tournaments get intense!
Look for ways to engage screens as a family through games, videos, or apps.
Use mistakes as teachable moments.
As your child learns more about technology and screens, they will make mistakes. They may accidentally visit an inappropriate site, watch content you would not approve of, or go over their screen time. Mistakes are great learning opportunities.
Questions to consider moving forward:
- What’s one way you can improve your own screen-time habits?
- What are routines you can start to encourage physical activity and creativity?
- What area in your house can you designate as a tech-charging zone?
- What are activities your child can engage in that don’t involve screens?
- What task can your child complete to earn screen time?
- What’s one show that your family can watch and use to grow together?
Managing screen time requires patience. Pick one or two of these that you can implement, and choose the easiest for your family. The key is consistency. And don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get it right all the time. Remember, their mistakes (and ours) make for great teachable moments.
Your Ultimate Guide to Screen Time
How Much Should You Limit Kids’ Screen Time and Electronics Use?
Screen Time for Kids: Guidelines, Boundary Setting, and Educational Recommendations
1American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Screen Time and Children.
2American Academy of Pediatrics. Children and media tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
3U.S. National Library of Medicine. Health risks of an inactive lifestyle.
4Barnett, T.A., et al. (2018). Sedentary behaviors in today’s youth—approaches to the prevention and management of childhood obesity: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIR.0000000000000591.
5Chang, A.M., et al. (2015). Evening use of light-emitting eReaders negatively affects sleep, circadian timing, and next-morning alertness. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1418490112.
Moreno, M.A., et al. (2016). Media use in school-aged children and adolescents. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2016-2592.
What Is Love-Bombing? (And How To Tell If It’s Happening To Your Teen)
There’s been a lot of social media buzz lately about a practice that is impacting teens and young adults. It’s called “love-bombing.” This term may be new to you, but the concept will sound familiar.
A 2017 University of Arkansas study described love-bombing as “excessive communication during the early stages of a relationship to gain control and power.”1 In 1992, a study described this type of behavior as the “Charm Tactic,” or being heavy on the charm to initiate a relationship or keep it going.2 These two studies, done 25 years apart, paint the same picture of someone who overwhelms another with charm, gifts, and adoration to win them over and control them. Does the concept sound familiar now?
As parents, we are responsible for ensuring the safety of our children. This goes beyond physical safety to include emotional and sexual safety as well. Being love-bombed can be damaging to your teen. But there are signs that you can be on the lookout for.
If you see these signs, ask questions to learn more and help them know what’s happening. I don’t have to remind you, but your teen probably thinks they know better and doesn’t want you involved in their relationships.
Signs of Love-Bombing
*This list isn’t all-inclusive3,4, nor does someone have to exhibit all of these signs to be a love-bomber. Love-bombing tactics can vary.
1. Excessive compliments
Who doesn’t love compliments? There’s nothing wrong with compliments, but constant praise can be a red flag. Suppose your teen is embarking on a new relationship, and their significant other is already expressing intense love for them. In that case, it’s time to ask some questions. If you hear them say things like, “I’ve never met anyone as perfect as you,” or “I love you more than I’ve ever loved anyone,” ask your teen how that makes them feel.
2. Expensive gifts
Love-bombing often includes trying to buy someone’s love with expensive gifts. The purpose is to make the love-bombed one feel like they owe their gift-giver something. A healthy relationship can’t be bought. So if your teen frequently receives gifts like new AirPods or Beats headphones, shoes, or clothes, those are red flags.
3. Consistent texts and messages
Love-bombers want all your attention. In this digital age, it’s normal to communicate, especially early in a relationship, but calling, texting and messaging 24/7 is excessive. And if your teen doesn’t answer or respond quickly, their significant other may get accusatory.
4. They want all your teen’s attention.
If your teen isn’t with them, they become angry. They may try to invite themselves anywhere the family goes. You may also see your teen withdraw from other friends or social activities to appease this new relationship. In a healthy relationship, each person respects the other’s interests.
5. They try to convince your teen they’re soulmates.
While you can meet your soulmate as a teen, someone shouldn’t be trying to convince your teen they’re soulmates. If they are trying to convince your teen that their relationship is like that in a romantic movie, raise a red flag. They may be trying to pressure your teen into a relationship they aren’t ready for.
6. They get upset with boundaries.
Love-bombers don’t usually like boundaries. They want all of a person’s time, attention, and affection. When your teen establishes boundaries regarding their time or access to technology, the love-bomber may get upset.
If your teen tries to slow down the relationship, they may also turn up the manipulation.
7. They are needy.
Whatever time your teen gives them is never enough. They want all of it. You may notice your teen getting less and less excited about talking or spending time with their boyfriend or girlfriend.
If you notice any of these signs in your teen’s relationships, your teen may be the victim of love-bombing. They are young and may not see any of this as an issue. But, what do you do?
Don’t attack their partner.
This may isolate your teen and prevent them from confiding in you.
Don’t say, “You’re not allowed to date them.”
Did that work for your parents? It didn’t work for me. That may just make your teen want to stay in the relationship.
Ask questions from time to time and respect their responses. Ask them how they feel about their relationship. Find out what they gain from it as well as what they give.
Establish dating rules.
If you feel that the relationship may be unhealthy, establish a rule that their partner must come to your house to spend time together.
Give them plenty of time and positive attention.
Sometimes our teens will enter into unhealthy relationships because they crave attention.
Talk about what a healthy relationship looks like.
Make teaching your teen about healthy relationships a regular part of your conversations. Look for examples of healthy and unhealthy behaviors and talk about those.
If you think your teen is being love-bombed, help them see the signs of manipulation before it becomes abusive. Help them see their self-worth and to love themselves for who they are. If your teen needs it, don’t be afraid to seek help from a counselor.
How to Be a Supportive Parent – First Things First
9 Ways You Can Be Your Teen’s Best Friend
How to Help Your Teen Deal With a Breakup – First Things First
1Strutzenberg, C. C., et al. (2017). Love-bombing: A Narcissistic Approach to Relationship Formation. https://scholarworks.uark.edu/discoverymag/vol18/iss1/14
2Buss. (1992). Manipulation in Close Relationships: Five Personality Factors in Interactional Context. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-6494.1992.tb00981.x
3Lamont, C. (2019, December 16). Love bombing: 10 Signs of Over-the-Top Love. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/love-bombing
4Laderer, A. (2022, February 9). 9 sinister signs that you’re getting love bombed, according to relationship therapists. Insider. https://www.insider.com/guides/health/sex-relationships/love-bomb
Other helpful articles to read:
What To Do When Your Spouse Is A Bad Parent
Parenting has evolved since I was a kid. But not necessarily because of cultural shifts as much as access to information. Research, blogs, and social media have made it easy to access information about how our parenting impacts kids. This information can help us to better understand the long-term impact of our parenting. It also reshapes what this generation sees as good or bad parenting. Parents often search for information to help them when they view their spouse as a bad parent.
Before we look deeper into this, let’s clarify what a “bad” parent looks like.
★If your spouse is emotionally, physically, or sexually abusive to your child (or you), this article isn’t for you. I strongly urge you to stop reading and seek help. Contact the National Children’s Advocacy Center. The following information is not intended for your situation or to condone that type of parent.★
For our purposes, let’s take a look at the parenting styles to define what a bad parent looks like. There are four main parenting styles: authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, and uninvolved. An uninvolved parenting style is typically characterized as being distant with little communication. They may ensure their child’s basic needs are met but are involved little beyond that. An uninvolved parenting style is considered bad parenting.
If you think your spouse is a bad parent, you may feel like they:
- Show little or no affection to their children.
- Don’t provide emotional support for their children.
- Don’t set rules, boundaries, or expectations.
- Don’t know their child’s friends.
- Have no involvement with their child’s education.
We have to acknowledge that parenting, like life, has seasons. You may look at this list and say, “Yep, my spouse isn’t involved with our child. They’re a bad parent.” I would ask you two questions first.
- Is this a busy season?
- Do they have a desire to be more involved?
Your spouse may be in a busy season due to work or life demands. I don’t want to justify their actions, but there is a difference between a bad parent and a busy parent.
If you think your spouse is a bad parent and you’re reading this, you know something needs to change.
How do you help them become a more involved or better parent?
→Open the lines of communication.
You recognize there’s an issue. You may have to take the first step toward your spouse. A good rule is not to bring up these issues when frustrated. An argument isn’t going to bring resolution.
Schedule a coffee date with your spouse. Let them know how you feel without being accusatory. It may be challenging, but using “I” statements to express your feelings is an excellent way to discuss frustrations in a relationship.
Perhaps you could start the conversation like this: “Lately, I’ve noticed some distance between you and our son. I want to ensure that you’re getting the time with him he needs. Is there something I can do to help us get on the same page?”
→Seek to understand.
Our parenting style is often a result of how we were parented, good or bad. Your spouse parents the way they do for a reason. Discuss these questions to dive deeper:
- What were the parenting styles in each of our homes?
- Which patterns do we want to change about how our parents raised us?
- What healthy habits do we want to maintain?
This conversation is as much about your parenting as their parenting. You may gain insight into why your spouse parents the way they do. You may learn something about yourself. This may open up some emotional wounds. If so, don’t be afraid to seek help from a coach or counselor.
→Find common ground.
Look for good parenting resources that you can discuss together. Identify the common parenting values in your family. Do you both value responsibility, hard work, or helping others? Establish goals for your parenting. What do you want your parenting to result in? Write down the positive parenting contributions from your spouse. Build on these positives.
→Avoid good cop, bad cop.
There will be disagreements over how you both parent, but those are conversations for the two of you. As you and your spouse become better parents together, try to avoid fighting in front of your kids. Present a united front. Remember, you’re a team. Your child needs to see that the two of you care for each other and them.
Just because you think your spouse is a bad parent doesn’t mean they’re a bad person. You can come together and move forward as a family. It’s gonna take work, some compromise, and lots of conversations. The process is worth it for your kids, your marriage, and future generations of your family.
Baumrind. (1966). Effects of Authoritative Parental Control on Child Behavior. https://doi.org/10.2307/1126611.
Kuppens, S., & Ceulemans, E. (2019). Parenting Styles: A Closer Look at a Well-Known Concept. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-018-1242-x.
My Spouse and I Disagree About Parenting – First Things First
How To Make Sure Your Child Knows You Love Them – First Things First
How to Be an Emotionally Safe Parent – First Things First
**Please note that this article is NOT about an abusive or neglectful parent. The physical and emotional safety of a child is not a difference in parenting styles. Anyone who knows of child abuse happening should call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).**
10 Tips for Surviving Summer Break
The end of the school year is right around the corner. This time of year is filled with field trips, field days, school programs, and parties. Then, it all comes to a close, and another school year is behind us. Bring on the summer!
It’s time for camps, vacations, and activities. Kids love summer. On the other hand, parents may not always be the biggest fan. Schedules change, and routines shift. Summertime often involves a lot of calendar juggling and planning.
Summertime doesn’t have to stress you out, though.
Here are some tips for summer survival:
Put a calendar in your kitchen or living room that everyone can see and keep up with.
If your summer looks like ours, there are lots of camps and activities to keep track of. The best way to make sure you’re all on the same page is to post a highly visible calendar. Get creative with colors for each family member. Just remember to make it simple enough that it doesn’t get overwhelming.
Schedule a weekly family meeting.
Summer schedules can change from week to week. A great practice is to schedule a weekly family meeting to discuss what’s coming up. Sunday evening could be an ideal time. Include the whole family and get input from the kids.
Adjust your school year routines, but don’t throw them out.
Kids need structure. Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean you should throw all the routines out the window. If you’re like us, you still have a work schedule for the summer. Bedtimes may look different, and morning routines may shift, but structure brings security for your kids. We push bedtime back during the summer, and the kids usually wake up a little later. Just remember that you’ll have to adjust back to school year routines in a couple of months.
Schedule downtime for you as a family.
It’s tempting to stuff the calendar with camps and activities to keep the kids preoccupied. Make sure to schedule downtime and game nights for the family. Leave some time for the kids to be kids and entertain themselves.
Give your kids space.
Some kids need time to recharge (some parents, too). Set aside time for individual play or rest.
Schedules are great, but also be flexible and spontaneous. Life happens, and plans change. That’s ok.
Make a chore list.
Kids are home more over the summer and have more free time. Make a list of all the chores around the house and assign everyone tasks. Get creative and post the list on the fridge or near the family calendar. You can even schedule out when chores need to be done. No matter your child’s age, there are age-appropriate chores for them.
Clarify expectations regarding technology.
Set ground rules in your house for screen use during the summer. We put timers on our kids’ tablets and gaming systems. There is a daily cutoff for technology. Also, consider requiring chores to be done before they can use the tech.
Schedule a date night with your significant other.
While working on that calendar, schedule a date night for you and your love. Intentionally make time for the two of you.
Ditch the pressure.
Don’t put pressure on yourself to make this the best summer ever. Your kids don’t need lots of activities and trips. They need you! It amazes me what my kids classify as the best days. It’s often just time spent together.
Make this summer a summer they’ll never forget – not because of trips or adventures, but because you enjoyed it as a family. Summers get more hectic as your kids get older. Take advantage of time with them when they’re young and make the most of it with these summer survival tips. Have a great summer!
Arlinghaus KR, Johnston CA. The Importance of Creating Habits and Routine. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. 2019;13(2):142-144. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1559827618818044
Malatras, J et al. First things first: Family activities and routines, time management and attention. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology. 2016; 47: 23-29. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appdev.2016.09.006.
How to Talk To Your Spouse About Being the Default Parent
The term “default parent” has become more popular in the last few years. Essentially, the default parent is responsible for most of their children’s emotional, physical, and logistical needs. If you and your spouse are parents, one of you is probably the default parent. And if you have to ask who it is, it probably isn’t you. The default parent carries most of the parenting load, which can be exhausting if you are overloaded with responsibilities.
Parenting may never truly be 50/50.
One of you may carry more responsibilities due to circumstances or a preference. What’s important is that the two of you agree on who will do what regarding parenting. Remember, first and foremost, you two are a team. Parenting takes a lot of time and energy, and it takes both of you working together.
So, fellow default parent, let’s have a quick chat. You’re probably exhausted and stressed out (to be honest, most parents are to some extent). You may feel unheard or neglected. You may be on the verge of burnout. And you may even be resentful toward your spouse. All of this can hurt your relationship. I don’t want your relationship to suffer.
It’s time to talk to your spouse about being the default parent. Here are a few tips to get you started:
Awareness is the first step toward change. You recognize you’re carrying most parenting responsibilities, but it doesn’t have to be overbearing. Let the following statement sink in: “Just because I can do something doesn’t mean I have to.”
Remember that communication is key.
Good communication truly is the foundation of many solutions in a relationship. If we don’t talk to each other, how can we expect our relationship to grow and thrive? Schedule a time with your spouse to sit down and discuss what parenting looks like in your marriage.
As you have this conversation, you’ll want to keep a few do’s and don’ts in mind:
DON’T talk about this when you’re frustrated.
DO set aside a time with no distractions.
DON’T accuse or put all the blame on them.
DO express how you feel using “I” statements.
DON’T interrupt when your spouse responds.
DO listen to understand.
DON’T jump to conclusions about how you became the default parent.
DO seek to understand your spouse’s viewpoint.
Most importantly, be respectful with your spouse. Remember, marriage is a partnership, and you’re on the same team.
Write it down.
Make a list of everything you do to keep the house and family operating. Ask your spouse to write down everything they do, too. Don’t write it for them. You may think you know what they do and don’t do, but assuming isn’t helpful. After you’ve written it down, have a conversation about how best to address the imbalance.
Acknowledge what you both do in parenting and why it’s important.
As parents, it’s valuable to acknowledge what you both bring to the table. Stress the importance of what you both do. Even if you think your spouse doesn’t do enough when it comes to parenting, show appreciation for what they do for the family.
Reset (or set) expectations for who will do what.
Maybe you became the default parent because of circumstances. Maybe you stayed home with your newborn, then took on all the responsibilities and never stopped. Perhaps you have a more flexible schedule and can absorb more responsibilities. Maybe being the default parent was a conscious choice that you and your spouse discussed. Regardless of how you got here, it’s time to reset expectations.
Own the responsibilities you take on, and only those.
Trust that your spouse will take care of what they have agreed to be responsible for. They don’t need to be micromanaged or reminded constantly. Instead, encourage them and let them know you appreciate what they own. If it’s their responsibility, it’s their responsibility. I know people get frustrated when they ask me to do something and I respond by saying, “Let me check with my wife.” But she keeps the family calendar. I’m conscious of not committing us to something without checking with her first.
This shouldn’t be a one-and-done conversation, either. Circumstances will change, and every stage of parenting brings on new challenges and responsibilities. Revisit this conversation often to check in with and check on each other. You’re a team, and your marriage is healthier when you move in the same direction.
Modern Marriage – Till Chores do Us Part – Today’s Parent
Roskam et al. (2022). Gender Equality and Maternal Burnout: A 40-Country Study. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 53(2), 157-178.
12 Tips for First-Time Parents
Welcome to the most incredible adventure of your life… parenting. I’d love to offer you a roadmap to being a successful parent, but I’m still looking for that one. I can provide you with what I’ve learned from almost 10 years of mistakes and countless conversations with fellow parents.
So, buckle up and get ready for the wildest ride on earth – PARENTHOOD.
Here are 12 tips for first-time parents.
1. Everything is about to change (and it may be for the better).
Change can be scary. But over time, you won’t be able to imagine life any other way.
2. It’s natural to feel stress as a parent.
When you find yourself stressed, it’s okay to step away for a moment and take a deep breath. Put your baby in a safe location (like a crib) and step outside for just a moment.
3. Take care of yourself.
You can’t give what you don’t have. Do your best to spend a little time for yourself. Take a walk, grab a coffee with friends, get in a quick workout, do a puzzle – whatever fills your soul.
4. You know your child better than anyone else.
You may sense that they aren’t feeling well or something isn’t right. Trust your instincts. Social media and the internet are full of people who think they know best, but they don’t know your baby.
5. Hold your baby a lot.
Don’t worry; you can’t spoil a newborn baby by holding them too much. They need your touch and attention. You’re providing a foundation for them to grow and feel safe emotionally, physically, and mentally.
6. You can’t completely prevent your kid from experiencing bad things.
They will get sick, they’ll have bad things happen, they may even do bad things. You are there to help prevent what you can and work through what you can’t.
7. You’ll make mistakes.
There is no handbook for parenting, and every child is different. It’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up.
8. When you do make a mistake, own it and apologize.
Your baby isn’t going to remember this, so this is for you. Create the habit now of apologizing when you mess up. As your child grows, they will learn this from you.
9. You are your child’s first teacher.
Learning doesn’t start in daycare or school; it begins with you. You have the opportunity to introduce your child to the world. Start early, teaching them as they grow.
10. Do what works for you, your child, and your family.
You’ll hear so much advice, but every child and every family is different. Figure out what works best for your situation.
11. It’s okay to accept help.
If someone offers to do your laundry, it doesn’t mean you’re a terrible parent because you didn’t do it all. Accepting help is meant to make your life easier – it’s not something to feel guilty about.
12. Parenting can be rewarding, but it takes intentionality.
Every stage has its challenges. Making it through each stage is a victory for both you and your child!
Parenting is a journey. Take it one step at a time, and don’t get ahead of yourself. And have fun! You’ve got this. I’m rooting for you.
Seven Things Every Child Needs to Thrive
10 Questions Couples Should Ask Each Other Before Having a Baby
How To Make Sure Your Child Knows You Love Them – First Things First
Can You Spoil a Baby by Holding Them Too Much?
Bilgin, A., & Wolke, D. (2020). Parental use of “cry it out” in infants: no adverse effects on attachment and behavioural development at 18 months. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, and Allied Disciplines, 61(11), 1184–1193.
Ribar, D. C. (2015). Why marriage matters for child wellbeing. The Future of Children, 25(2), 11–27.
Should Your Adult Child Move Back Home?
Do you have an adult child living at home part-time or full-time? Are you considering this kind of arrangement? You might be struggling as you think about how to nurture and honor their adulthood while still being the adult parent in your home. I’ve got essential principles and practical help as you set boundaries with adult children. Let’s begin by examining the adult in the somewhat strange term adult child.
Everyone begins life being cared for by others. And if we live long enough, we each end our lives being cared for by other people. Somewhere in between is the chapter of life we call adulthood.
Adulthood: When you bear the responsibility of taking care of yourself.
If you’re a parent, you’ve brought a child into this world who began life utterly dependent on you. But as any toddler will show you, the desire to be independent is built in. It’s human nature for the toddler to protest and say, No, I’ll do it myself. That’s a healthy predisposition. Remember: The ultimate goal of parenting is to transition a dependent person into an independent person.
Parents raise future adults who do life themselves.
The toddler can’t actually do it themselves, and we don’t expect them to. But when is it reasonable to expect your adult child to be responsible for themselves and no longer dependent on you?
The transition can be tricky. It typically occurs between the late teens and early 20s. How do you know when your child is an adult? Every individual is different. You know where your young adult is from a developmental standpoint. But there are some significant signposts.
18 – Legally accountable. Vote. Enlist in the military. Marry without parental consent.
21 – Can buy tobacco, alcohol, and in many states, cannabis.
25 – Rent a car.
26 – Latest age they can be on most parents’ health insurance.
What do you see when you look at those numbers? From 18 to 26, there’s a window of time where adult freedoms and responsibilities kick in. Hopefully, we prepared our kids for the “training wheels” to come off during their teenage years. At 18, the training wheels are definitely beginning to come off. By the early to mid-20s, the transition is complete.
Your toddler is now an adult peddling through life on their own.
Remember: Adulthood = Independence + Responsibility.
★ If we don’t give our adult children responsibilities, they can’t be independent and reach adulthood. This only extends their childhood and delays their maturity.
There are legitimate circumstances that may cause your adult child to be at home: College, unemployment, experiencing childbirth, illness, even a broken marriage or partnership. Our goal as parents is to promote independence through education, employment, financial stability, and ultimately, living on their own. Moving back home (in most cases) should be a temporary arrangement marked with tangible goals leading to their moving out.
Think of an adult child living at home as more like a housemate and less like a teenager. Your name is on the mortgage or lease. Sure, there should be healthy conversations. But you get the final word.
★ Something(s) To Think About. As parents, we have an impulse to do anything we can for our kids. Know your limits. Understand the healthy freedoms & responsibilities your adult child needs to grow into an independent adult.
- Will there be an agreed-upon end date?
- What signposts can you put in place to mark educational & occupational goals?
- Will you be dealing with a young person who has drug or alcohol issues? Significant mental health issues?
- Will your child be bringing a baby with them?
- Despite your good intentions, realistically, can you handle this?
Avoid problems before they happen. Address and agree to boundaries before an adult child moves back home (if possible). Put them in writing. Sign them like a rental agreement or contract.
What are sensible, reasonable requirements or conditions you would have for a housemate to reside with you?
1. They’re reasonably easy to live with. They respect you, your property, and your boundaries.
Start here. You and your adult child living at home will occasionally experience friction. That’s reasonable. They’re adult family.
(If it helps, think of your adult child as a stranger who is renting a room at your place. There would undoubtedly be limits.)
Sadly, there are numerous cases of adult children intimidating, manipulating, or even verbally and physically abusing their parents. You wouldn’t put up with that behavior from a renter. You can’t tolerate such behavior from your adult child. Basic respect is a minimum requirement. Understand what abuse is in all of its forms.*
2. They’re a contributor, not just a consumer – a giver, not just a taker.
This arrangement shouldn’t just be a net financial gain for your adult child. It should instill discipline and be instructive. Catch this: The person doing the work is learning and growing. The person sacrificing is the person developing character and life skills. This person must be your adult child.
What resources do they have? Income? What amount can they reasonably contribute? Tough Love Alert: If your adult child is enrolled in school, they can probably work part-time. If your adult child isn’t in school and is unemployed, their job is to find a job.
What about time & energy? Your adult child can help with household cleaning, laundry, yardwork, and meal prep & clean up. Organize these responsibilities with systems and schedules. Focus on clear communication. If you’re providing childcare while your son or daughter is at work or school, factor that into the division of labor. (I know, I know, but this is your grandchild, right? Call up a local daycare or preschool. Understand the value of the service you are providing.)
3. Hopefully, this is a harmonious, temporary situation.
Don’t be surprised if adjustments take some time, it’s difficult, or it isn’t working out. It’s ok to feel bad if your adult child is in a tough spot in their life. It’s understandable to want to help. Maybe you can. Perhaps you shouldn’t. What’s certain is that you can’t be motivated by guilt or a well-intentioned, “I can fix this.” Let that stuff go. Be the parent your adult child needs today. To let them play video games 24/7, “borrow” money constantly, or take advantage of you is to stunt the growth of their adult independent living skills. You love them too much to do that.
4. If you allow your adult child to move in with you, the situation should be right for you both.
Communicate and set boundaries upfront. Agree on how you’ll know the arrangement is working and can continue to an agreed-upon end date. As difficult or uncomfortable as it may be, communicate the signs and consequences that will bring an end to this arrangement.
Remember: Your adult child is becoming the person they will be for the rest of their life.
*Domestic Violence Hotline
Do you feel unsafe? For a free, confidential, and clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here, or contact the Domestic Violence Hotline, 24/7, at 1−800−799−7233.
Adult Children: The Guide to Parenting Your Grown Kids
Rules, Boundaries, and Older Children: How to Cope with an Adult Child Living at Home
Rules for Adult Children | Boundaries for Adult Kids Living at Home
Adult Children: Relating to Them in the Best Way – Dr. John Townsend
Setting Boundaries with Adult Children — Lilley Consulting
7 Ways To Deal With Adult Children Who Make Poor Decisions
Keys to Multigenerational Communication – First Things First
Journal Prompts For Teens
Another opportunity for teens to do some journaling! Bottom Line: Journaling is good for you. Here’s some scientific research related to journaling. Prepare to have your mind blown!
The simple act of journaling:
- Strengthens your immune system.
- Helps injuries heal faster. (I didn’t believe it either.)
- Raises your IQ.
- Boosts your memory.
- Reduces stress, anxiety and depression.
- Makes you more optimistic about life.
- But wait! There’s more! Journaling can keep you focused & organized, help you set & reach goals, improve your writing, inspire creativity, and help you get to know yourself.
If you could get all that in a vitamin, you’d take it – no questions asked.
Ideally, you should journal 2-3 times a week, but there are no rules. It doesn’t matter if you use paper, a computer, a journaling notebook or even a note on your phone.
There are different types of journaling and approaches. But let’s get right to those burning questions on your mind:
What do I write about? Exactly. You can write about that.
What if I want to figure out everything I write before I write it? Interesting. Write about that.
What if I don’t have a journal? Grab a napkin and write about whether or not it matters.
Journaling is a lot like so many things in life: You get out of it what you put into it.
These journal prompts for teens may be just what you need to get started.
- Describe an important item from your childhood. Why was it important? Where is it now?
- You get to talk to a dead person. Who would you choose, and why? What do you want to talk about?
- Describe your happiest childhood memory in detail.
- Explain something that happened to you that’s so strange, nobody believes you.
- In an abandoned cabin, you find a shiny box with a single red “DANGER” button. Do you push it? Why or why not?
- What’s something you want to learn how to do? Why?
- Where would you like to visit right now? What would you do there?
- What’s your favorite memory involving food?
- What accomplishment makes you feel the most pride? Why?
- The best advice you’ve ever received is…
- What’s something you could teach someone to do? How did you learn it?
- What are you most grateful for today?
- Name one thing you know is true.
- What’s a positive character trait or quality that you’re known for? What developed this trait in you?
- What character trait or quality can you grow in? How could you achieve that growth?
- You’re now in charge of the entire world. What would you change, and why?
- You can be any fictional character from a book or movie. Who do you want to be? Why?
- You can wake up tomorrow having gained one ability or talent. What do you choose? Are you willing to work at it? Why/Why not?
- Who are five people you admire, and why?
- What’s your favorite holiday, and why?
Finish these sentences:
- Life is mostly just…
- I used to think… but now I realize…
- I wonder if…
- I totally believe…
- It gets on my nerves when people…
- I hope I never forget…
- One thing I want to accomplish this month is…
- Success in life basically depends on…
- Cake or pie? Explain why the correct answer is definitely ______.
- When I’m happy…
Time for some fun!
- You find an envelope at the park with your name on it and $5,000. What do you do?
- Aliens abduct you and ask you to describe the human race.
- You can have one candy for free for life. What do you pick? Why?
- You wake up and the world is experiencing a zombie apocalypse. Realistically, how long do you survive and why? (Assume slow zombies, not fast, rage ones.)
- You run into someone who in all ways is your exact twin. How do you both make the most of this situation?
- If you could live in any part of the world, where would you choose? Why does it appeal to you?
- You can enter any video game as an NPC. (Non-Playable Character.) What game would be the most fun to wander around in? Why?
- You are now the world’s foremost collector of ______. What do you collect and why?
- If you could change one traffic law, what would it be? Why?
- You have the most vivid, realistic dream of eating a giant marshmallow. You wake up and your pillow is gone. What’s your first thought?
Conversation Starters for Kids and Parents – First Things First
100 Conversation Starters To Increase Your Family’s Connectedness
7 Ways to Deepen Your Connection With Your Teen – First Things First