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.
How to Set Healthy Boundaries With Parents
When you were a child or teen, your parents set rules to protect you and help you learn independence. But now that you’re an adult, there’s been a shift. Roles look different. There is a need for different boundaries: boundaries set with your parents, not by them.
This is new territory for you and your parents.
You’re learning what it means to be self-sufficient, and your parents are finding out they’re no longer in control – to whatever extent they have been. Stress and tensions can rise quickly. Chances are, you’ve seen traits in your parents that may not be healthy. Or maybe you’ve simply decided to do things differently from your parents. There must be boundaries for your relationship to continue in a healthy way.
Without healthy boundaries, tension can easily build from things your parent may do, like:
- Frequent unexpected visits.
- Offering unsolicited advice about your relationships, social life, or career choices.
- Purchasing items for your home, personal life, and/or children without asking.
- Disregarding your opinions or choices and offering what they think is best for you.
This lack of boundaries can be frustrating. They may have the best intentions, but you must help them understand that you’re an adult. If you don’t address it, it may cause a rift between you and your parents. So now’s the time to set some boundaries. Addressing issues in the parent-adult child relationship leads to higher relationship quality.1
Here are some expert tips from therapists on how to set boundaries with your parents.
Remember the why of setting boundaries.2,3
Feeling anxious is normal because you love your parents and don’t want to hurt them. But remember, boundaries are essential for all types of healthy relationships. Without boundaries, there’s confusion and frustration. You are allowed to have your needs met, so practice self-compassion and remember that you’re doing this because you care about yourself. And you care about your relationship with your parents.
Seek outside advice if necessary.2
Approaching a difficult conversation with your parents can be scary. You may even need to seek professional help to prepare yourself for talking with them. A therapist can help you identify and address any toxic behaviors. If you recognize that your parents’ unhealthy behavior has caused poor boundaries, a therapist can help you and your parents resolve any deep relationship wounds.
Try to stay positive.2
This doesn’t need to be a fight between you and your parents. It may take time for them to accept what you’re saying and adjust their actions. However, if you stay positive, they may be more accepting of what you have to share. Help them understand that you love and respect them but that roles in the relationship have changed.
Have an open conversation.2
We all have a desire to be heard and understood. This goes for your parents as well. Approach the conversation with concern about how they’re doing. They may be lonely since you moved out. They may be concerned. Express your needs and wants by using “I” statements like “I feel like you’re…” No one likes being accused or blamed.
Be clear and concise.3
Before approaching a conversation about boundaries, ask yourself what is bothering you and why. If you have a clear understanding of your concerns, you’ll be better prepared to communicate them clearly. And when you’re ready to have the conversation, be respectful but direct about your desires.
→Instead of saying, “It’s really annoying when you drop by unexpectedly. Stop doing that,” try saying, “I appreciate that you want to come and visit, but I feel flustered when people drop by unannounced… Could you call before you come by?”
Show your gratitude for the care and concern they have for your life. Express that you recognize they want the best for you. Show them you value their presence and role in your life. You just have a desire for how they show up in your life to look a little different.
Know your limits.3
Be clear about where you draw the line. If your primary concern is that your parents frequently drop by unannounced, then be clear about what you’d like to happen. Maybe you have a busy schedule and a social life, and you’d prefer to spend time with them on the weekends only. If that’s best for you, there is nothing wrong with setting limits like this.
Be conscious of your feelings. You must do what is healthy for you.
Setting boundaries with your parents can be scary, but you can do this. Be clear, kind, and loving. You’ll be grateful that you addressed this issue, and your relationship will be better for it. Effective boundaries lay the ground for healthy, positive relationships.4
How to Set Boundaries with Your Parents (and Stick to Them)
Boundaries in Relationships and Stress
What To Do When Grandparents Undermine Your Parenting – First Things First
What to Do When You Disagree With the Ones You Love – First Things First
1Birditt, K.S., et al. (2009). “If You Can’t Say Something Nice, Don’t Say Anything at All”: Coping with Interpersonal Tensions in the Parent-Child Relationship During Adulthood. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0016486
2Ertel, A. (2022, February 4). How to set boundaries with parents: A therapist’s guide. Talkspace. https://www.talkspace.com/blog/setting-boundaries-with-parents/
3Mancao, A. (2020, March 25). 6 Steps to setting healthy boundaries with parents (and what that looks like). Mindbodygreen. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/setting-healthy-boundaries-with-parents/
4Buck, C.A. (2015). Establishing effective personal boundaries. Vanderbilt University Medical Center. https://www.vumc.org/health-wellness/news-resource-articles/establishing-effective-personal-boundaries
8 Reminders for a Great School Year
Wait, what? It’s already time for school to start? It seems like just yesterday that kids were doing the happy dance as they got off the bus and headed home for summer break.
Are you ready to kick off a great school year with less stress and as little drama as possible?
Here are eight reminders to help parents set the stage for a great year:
- It’s okay to say “no” when commitments get too demanding. Many child experts warn parents about the stress children experience when they participate in too many activities. Ask yourself, “Are we in control of our schedule, or does it control us?”
- Saying “no” can be for you, too. On top of children being stressed, parents really have to consider their own bandwidth when it comes to school, work and additional commitments. A stressed-out, tired parent who is always at the end of their rope typically leads to more drama. Ask yourself, “Will my family benefit more from this activity or from an unstressed parent?”
- Routines and structure at home will help everyone. Having consistency at home is best for children and parents alike. When you set a bedtime, morning, and getting home routine, you’ll actually decrease stress for children (and adults) because they know what to expect. Ask your family, “What’s one routine we can start that will help everyone after getting home from school?”
- Intentional evenings create smooth mornings. Things like choosing an outfit, packing lunches, getting backpacks ready with completed homework inside and signing papers before bedtime can make the morning better. Anything you (and your kids) can do the night before to make the morning less hectic is a serious plus! Ask your family, “What’s one thing we can all be responsible for every evening to help our mornings go better?”
- Let your children do what they are capable of doing for themselves. Start by giving each child a short list of responsibilities as their contribution to the family. It’s tempting to do things yourself because it’s faster or easier. But it’s good to develop the habit of delegating stuff you know they can handle. When you face the temptation to jump in and take over a task, tell yourself, “Giving room for independence will have a bigger impact on my child than if we’re late.”
- You will always be one of your child’s teachers. As a parent, you’ll always be your child’s first teacher. But the job isn’t over just because they’re in school! From homework help to life skills, try to be active in your child’s education. Ask your child, “What is one subject you feel a little nervous about? Is there anything I can do to help support you in that subject?”
- Technology is a tool. Technology is almost always a huge part of education, so setting screen limits and technology boundaries can be tricky! You can find helpful information as you seek to make decisions about this at Families Managing Media. Ask your child’s teacher, “What role does technology play in the classroom? And what are the expectations for technology at home?”
- Regular family meetings can help keep communication open. Set a weekly time for the family to all sit down together – even if it’s only for 10 minutes. Talk about what’s on deck in the coming week for everyone, and see if anybody is responsible for taking food or materials to school. Plan meal prep for the week, or discuss anything important for everybody to know. Ask your family, “What are two things you’d like us to talk about more often?”
Getting into the swing of things as the school year starts doesn’t have to take till fall break! Make time for your family to connect and communicate – it’s one of the most effective ways to decrease stress and drama. Here’s to a stress-free and great start to the school year for your family!
8 Ways to Manage Family Time – First Things First
My Spouse and I Disagree About Parenting – First Things First
How to Keep Your Marriage Strong Over Summer Break
School’s out, and my kids are excited about a fun-filled summer. Mom and Dad… not as much. Don’t get me wrong; I love summertime. But summer schedules can be hectic when you’re juggling different camps, vacations, and activities. Sure, the school year is crazy busy, but at least it’s consistent. Summer schedules are a little more challenging. Are any other parents feeling the crunch?
Summertime can add more stress to your marriage as well. Focusing on our relationship can get lost in the frenzy if we aren’t careful. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can keep your marriage strong over the summer, too.
Here are a few ways to get you started:
Date each other.
A regular date night is crucial to the health of your relationship. It can be so easy to fall into a routine in your relationship, especially when kids are in the picture. This is where date night comes in. Dating your mate takes a little more coordination if you have young children. If you don’t currently have a regular date night, now’s the time to start. Create a shared calendar on your phone (if you don’t already use one) and schedule one date night this month. Then flip to next month and plan another one. Keep it going. I mean it! Stop reading right now, and get those summer date nights on the calendar. I’ll wait…
Okay, now that you have dates scheduled… they are scheduled, right? Here are a few more ways to keep your marriage strong.
Make time for intimacy.
Before you put the calendars away, go ahead and schedule some time to get intimate. Wait a minute! Isn’t sex supposed to be spontaneous? Sure, but if you have little kids, you know the reality. Spontaneity is hard to come by. If you’re not intentional, it’s easy to let your sex life fall into the background. But your marriage needs sexual and physical intimacy. And what gets put on the calendar often gets done, am I right? So, decide how often and when and schedule it. Just to clarify, this is a conversation for the two of you. And don’t worry, just ’cause it’s scheduled doesn’t make it boring. [Read 3 Ways to Have Better Sex in Marriage.]
Share a hobby or activity.
Identify at least one common hobby or activity and make time to do that together. You may need to break out the calendar and schedule it depending on the activity. But there may be hobbies you can do at home while the kids play. This doesn’t have to be a family activity, but it can be if you both agree that you’ll enjoy it just as much.
As you’re going in different directions, getting the kids places, and working, it can be easy to spend less time talking as a couple. Carve out some time each day to check in with each other. Maybe it’s over coffee in the morning. Perhaps it’s 30 minutes outside together at the end of each workday.
When you check in on each other, give your spouse space to vent. If one of you is working from home while the kids are out of school, you may need an avenue to let go of stress. Give each other space to share what’s going on.
Show appreciation daily.
Nothing says love like appreciation, so don’t forget to show your appreciation to the one you share a life and home with. Here are some easy ways to show how much you appreciate your spouse:
- Send a text telling them how much they mean to you. (Bonus points if you’re specific about why you appreciate them.)
- Leave Post-it notes for them. If they leave for work, leave them in their bag or lunch. If your spouse stays home, hide notes somewhere they will find them throughout the day.
- Say it out loud and often. And say it in front of others, especially your kids.
- Give them a break (or at least a few hours) to do whatever they enjoy most.
Invest in your marriage.
Take an online course together. There are loads of resources to help strengthen your marriage during the summer or any other season. You can focus on intimacy, communication, parenting, or other topics. Investing in your marriage now strengthens it for the future.
Speak your spouse’s love language.
If the two of you have never taken Gary Chapman’s Love Languages assessment, now is the time. We all have a primary love language, and when someone speaks it to us, we feel loved and appreciated. We also usually express love using our primary language, so learning your spouse’s love language is crucial to helping them feel loved.
An easy way to keep your marriage strong is to simply hold hands. Holding hands releases endorphins, a mood-boosting chemical. It also releases oxytocin, making you feel more bonded to your spouse. And it’s a stress reliever, too.
Make this summer a great one for your marriage. Not because of a big trip, but because you both chose to be intentional and turn toward each other.
The Importance of MeaningLESS Conversations – First Things First
How to Talk About Sex in Marriage – First Things First
8 Ways To Care for Your Spouse’s Mental Health – First Things First
Brain-to-brain coupling during handholding is associated with pain reduction
Walsh, C. M., Neff, L. A., & Gleason, M. (2017). The role of emotional capital during the early years of marriage: Why everyday moments matter. Journal of family psychology: Journal of the Division of Family Psychology of the American Psychological Association (Division 43), 31(4), 513–519. https://doi.org/10.1037/fam0000277
Goldstein, P., Weissman-Fogel, I., Dumas, G., & Shamay-Tsoory, S. G. (2018). Brain-to-brain coupling during handholding is associated with pain reduction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115 (11), E2528-E2537. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1703643115
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.
What Does It Mean to Be the Default Parent?
The other day, I was at my kids’ school, deep in conversation with my wife and another parent. Then, here comes our 6-year-old daughter, on a mission. She goes right around my wife to ask me if she could go play on the playground. My wife responds, “Hey, I’m right here, and Dad is talking.” This didn’t phase my daughter at all. She had a question and thought I had the answer. My wife and I are very much partners in parenting. Still, we recognize that I often serve as the default parent.
What does “default parent” mean?
Default means a preselected option. We all know what parent means. So, what’s a default one? They are the one who carries the bigger load in parenting (assuming there are two parents present). According to a 2014 Huff Post article, they’re responsible for their children’s emotional, physical, and logistical needs.
If you’re the default parent, you probably already know it without thinking about it.
Your child comes to you when they need anything (sometimes physically bypassing the other parent).
You’re the one who coordinates the schedules, sets appointments (and makes sure they get there), nurses injuries, ensures all school needs are met, and serves as the first point of contact for school or daycare.
You also feel the pressure to take the lead on anything new that pops up, like school meetings or appointments.
How does one become the default parent?
Sometimes it’s a choice. There is an intentional conversation, and one parent chooses that role. But more often than not, it falls to one person without a conversation happening. If only one parent works outside of the home, the other parent may become the default parent. And yes, while moms tend to be seen as the default parent, that isn’t always the case.
Is there always a default parent?
More likely than not. One parent may always carry more of the load. Parenting will not always be 50/50, depending on your work schedule, but that doesn’t mean it has to be unbearable for one of you. Being intentional about communicating with your spouse is the only way to ensure you’re both sharing the load.
Here’s what parenting looks like in our situation. My children are both elementary school age, and my wife works at their school. I have a more flexible schedule. So, I schedule and take the kids to doctor and dentist appointments. My wife would tell you that she can count the dentist appointments she’s made on one hand. I have served on the school PTA for five years. Until she started working at the school, I served as the primary contact for my son’s teachers. I take responsibility for my son’s sports schedule.
My wife coordinates the family calendar to ensure we don’t overbook ourselves. She’s the go-to for our kids when they are sick, but I often stay home with them if they miss school. We are fairly evenly split on household chores.
Am I really the default parent? My wife would say yes. Our situation was created mostly by circumstances. Do I do everything? Not by a long shot.
What challenges arise for the default parent?
Let’s start with the fact that parenting is difficult in and of itself. There’s no way around that. Being a default parent makes it even harder.
Here are just a few challenges that arise:
- Feeling neglected and unheard
- Feeling guilt when taking time for yourself
- Resenting your partner
All of this can also negatively impact your relationship. The challenges affecting the default parent can cause issues with communication and intimacy. If left unaddressed, the default parent’s frustration can evolve into contempt, which is hazardous for the relationship.
If you find yourself as the default parent and you’re not sure how you got there, it’s time to address the issue in your relationship. It all starts with communication and resetting expectations.
How Did I End Up as the Default Parent? | Psychology Today
The Default Parent | HuffPost Life
I’m My Kids’ Default Parent But I’ve Made My Husband Intervene More Often
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
How to Stop the Cycle of Parental Burnout
I have a confession to make: I’ve been stressed and exhausted many times. I’ve felt burned out and ready to quit, but not from work obligations – from being a parent.
Parenting is tough. It’s demanding. Before our son was born 10 years ago, I recall people telling me everything would change. I don’t remember anyone telling me I’d be taking 2AM walks to stay sane. No one told me there would be days I’d question whether I could continue. The list of things I wish I’d known then is long.
Parental burnout is a real thing, but don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t trade being a dad for anything. Researchers Hubert and Aujoulat found that “parental burnout results from situations where exhaustion occurs as a result of being physically and emotionally overwhelmed by one’s parental role.”
If you’ve been a parent for at least a couple of hours, you know that parenting stress is real. But when it consumes you, burnout sets in. There’s hope, though. You can stop the cycle of parental burnout.
The stress isn’t going anywhere, but there are some healthy ways to lessen the pressure.
Surround yourself with a community.
“It takes a village to raise a child.”
I never quite understood that until we had our first child. But it’s true. Raising a child isn’t easy. Mine didn’t come with a how-to guide.
Surround yourself with people who want what’s best for you. Think about grandparents, other parents, or friends who care about your well-being. You need people in your life to help care for your child when you need it and to help you care for yourself. Asking for help doesn’t make you weak or less than. Any person who has raised a child knows the stress involved.
Text one person and invite them over. Ask them to hold you accountable for taking time for yourself.
Take care of yourself.
When you’re responsible for a little one, it’s easy to put all your energy into making sure you meet their needs. When they get all your energy, there’s nothing left for you.
Have you ever been on a plane and heard the safety speech? If the airbags are deployed, put yours on before you try to put on someone else’s. That sounds counterintuitive to parenting, but it’s so true. If you don’t care for yourself, you won’t have anything to give. Being a parent is the best reason I’ve ever had to take good care of myself.
Exercise, eat healthy foods, get rest (when you can), or meditate. Will it be easy? No. Is it important? Extremely!
Put down your phone. Go get a glass of water, and take deep breaths as you drink. Make it your goal to do that three times today.
Give yourself grace.
You won’t be a perfect parent, and that’s ok! We all mess up. I don’t think I could list all the mistakes I’ve made. As my kids have gotten a little older, I ask them for lots of grace, too. I apologize when I make a mistake.
Don’t fall into the social media comparison game, either. You may see someone who looks like the perfect parent – but remember, social media usually shows the best moments. You may not see all the tears it took to get that perfect photo.
Allow yourself to make mistakes. Tell yourself, “My child doesn’t need a perfect parent – they need a present parent.”
Take a break when you need it.
If your child is in childcare or school, take a day off every once in a while to be alone. Enjoy doing what you like to do. Maybe that’s getting outdoors, taking a long bath or chilling with a movie. And don’t feel guilty about it. You have permission to take time for yourself.
Schedule an hour this week to take a break. Right now, ask your support system to help you make this happen.
Boundaries help to protect your time and your relationships. You may have to say no to some good things. As my children have become more independent, I’ve found that I can say yes to more things I want to do.
Prioritize your well-being and relationships when opportunities come your way.
Ask, “What have I said yes to that I don’t have margin for?” Then do your best to take that off your list.
Parenting isn’t easy, but you can do it. If you already feel burned out and have nothing left to give, reach out to a professional, coach or counselor. You don’t have to walk this road alone.
How to Be an Emotionally Safe Parent – First Things First
Can Self-Care Become Selfish? – First Things First
5 Signs You Need Some Alone Time
Parental Burnout: When Exhausted Mothers Open Up. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 1021.
Breaking through the loss cycle of burnout: The role of motivation. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 84(2), 268–287.
Beating burnout. Harvard Business Review, 98-101.
The Cost of Caring Without Self-Care