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Curfews When Home For The Holidays

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

I woke up this morning and realized that it is my youngest son’s birthday. At this very hectic time of year I often ask myself, “why did I have a your-baby during the holidays?” I think the answer would be “we just wanted another your-baby”, not thinking that I would have an almost Christmas your-baby. But, the point of this is not about trying to have birthday parties for your child when you have a million other things to do. Or about always thinking we would celebrate half birthdays in the summer, which never happened.  Or trying to shop for both birthday and Christmas gifts, and swearing never to “cheat” him, but still taking things from closet to tree each year trying to figure out which gift should be for which occasion. The real discussion is about curfews.

I have learned that one of the hardest adjustments for both parent and child is that first winter vacation home from college. It is such an exciting time for parents. Welcoming your child back home after that first long semester away! I am always longing for family dinners, games by the fire and “adult” conversation about their favorite professor or class. Discussions about new friends, roommates, second semester and what they think they will major in. Instead, most of the conversations are about plans they have to visit friends or hang out or do something away from the house and parents. This is always followed by the parental, “what time will you be home?” (to play the fireside family game). The reply seems to be universal, “I am in college now, I don’t have a curfew in college.”

Several years ago a parent of a patient and I were discussing this issue and they agreed with the theory that curfews were no longer appropriate. One of the great things about my job is that parenting advice goes both ways, and over the years I have learned so much from both patients and their parents. But this time the experiment, which lasted for ONE night, only reinforced my belief that college kids should have curfews while home. This is especially important if you have younger kids at home who are in school, parents with jobs or anything that requires getting up in the morning and getting a good night’s sleep. The “young adult” college student usually has a different clock, and my idea of reasonable time and theirs is not always in sync. I could be getting up when they think it is time to come home.

I still subscribe to the “nothing good happens after midnight” theory. So…. If you have a college freshman arriving home this week after finals, have the discussion about curfews. They always argue, “you don’t know when I come home when I am at school.” That does ring true, but when they are “home” parents just get a better night’s sleep once their “your-baby” is also tucked into bed.

That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again soon.

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