Home Rules For The Holidays

mother and daughter drawing teenager
Over the holidays, many a household is turned upside down by social demands and adjustments that must be made as teen-agers talk about curfews and borrowing the family car and as young adults come home from college. The advice of Mike Riera, The Saturday Early Show's family and adolescence counselor: Make room for all this in a set of household rules tailored to the holidays.

Says one mother: "My daughter thinks the rules should change, and they should change over the holidays forever, because she turned 21 in September."

Mike's response:

College students coming home for the holidays require special considerations: not the old high school rules and not the "anything goes" of the college dormitory or adult life.

It's important to understand the dynamics at play here. She's coming home claiming to be an adult -- that is she wants you to see her as an adult, because no matter how she acts, she's not sure of herself yet.

You're welcoming her back home, with the idea that she is not yet an adult; that is, you're not ready for her to be all grown up.

This is a setup for conflict. It's also not what this should be about. It's about family, so find a graceful way around this.

Things to consider:

  • What rules do you need to be able to relax and enjoy her presence? What about her?
  • Do you have a means of communicating when plans change? A cell phone (even a loaner) is a good idea. Make sure the means are in place for you to be considerate of one another.
This mother also said that, for the first two days her daughter is home, she allows her to sleep in till noon or 1 p.m. But after that, she is expected to get up with the rest of the household.

If you have a question for Mike Riera about dealing with your teen, send an email to sat@cbsnews.com with "Ask Mike" in the subject line. Or write to "Ask Mike" The Saturday Early Show, 514 West 57th St., 6th floor, New York, N.Y. 10019. Your question may be featured on future shows.

Mike says college students will need to get caught up on sleep. They just have finished exams and lots of late nights studying -- and playing.

Also, adolescents and young adults have different sleep schedules. In the bodies of adolescents and young adults, melatonin (the chemical that makes you drowsy) is not released until around 11 p.m. In adults, it is released around 7 p.m. Also, recent studies have shown that the younger set needs more sleep than adults – about 9 1/2 hours instead of the standard 8.

So compromise with students who are home from college. They should not sleep until noon, but neither should they be expected to get up at 8 a.m.

Again, it's not about when they get up. It's about family. Don't make it all about power. Istead, it's about connection. For instance, if you want to hang out with your college-age children, try treating them to some brunches – a late breakfast for them and early lunch for you.

In all cases, it is best to talk about the rules before problems arise.


A 13-year-old girl says, "Usually, my curfew is 10:30. But I'd like it to be an hour later (about 11:30). I'd like to be with my friends longer."

Responds her father, "I think the curfew should be 10:30 because you run out of things to do after 10:30. I remember what I was like when I was 13-years old and it was time to go home… New Year's Eve, she's at our house or someone else's house. As long as she's home or with a bunch of her friends, that's fine. It's a holiday. That's what holidays are for: Eat, drink, and be merry."

Mike's response:

Vacations are a time to negotiate new curfews, just for the holidays. Frame the negotiated rules as "holiday privileges" and, as such, they are an experiment for summer and next year.

As for New Year's, make the daughter take responsibility for safety and resting your anxiety. If she can do that, then New Year's is a great exception. More clearly: "If you can figure out a way to stay out late on New Year's Eve and address our concerns for your safety and well-being, then we're with you. Otherwise, we'll watch the ball drop on TV together, in our living room."


The parent of a 15 and 17-year-old says: "This vacation, I think the biggest issue with my older one will be use of the car... He feels like going to visit his friends or going to the movies, or he wants to go skiing, and he expects to be able to use the car whenever he feels like it."

Mike's response:
Now is the time to talk about the car. Talk about the kinds of responsibilities he needs to exhibit during vacation: always filling the car with gas and being on time, etc.

You need to ask yourself: How often can he expect to use car? How quickly can you give him an answer?

When you let him know the answers to these questions, while he might not like what you say, you are providing him with a logical framework. This is the consistency every kid needs.

A whole other take on the car issue is to make your house the place where his friends gather, so he picks up friends and brings them home. Whatever they like, stock the house with it: pizza and soda, action movies, games, etc.

In all these cases, remember that just because you have negotiated new guidelines, you cannot expect that your kids won't test you. One still might ask you for the car when they don't know where they are going. Another may still want an extra half-hour past curfew. It is the nature of kids to test; that will not (and should not) change.

Also, over vacation, the kids would love to imagine that there's a bottomless pit of funding available. Welcome to parenthood! Mike suggests that this is a good time to estabish a budget: "We'll give you x amount over vacation. You figure out how to spend it. If you run out, we can always come up with some jobs around the house for you to do for extra money."

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