10 August 2023

6 survival tips for parents of live-at-home university students

10 August 2023

A fifth of new students plan to live at home while studying at university, according to new research.

But while living with their parents will undoubtedly be cheaper, it could create problems if teenagers try to live a typical student lifestyle in their mum and dad’s house – so experts advise ground rules.

A new UCL and Sutton Trust study of more than 11,000 Year 13 students in England, who have either applied or plan to apply to university, found 20% had decided to live at home during term time if they got into university (14% had not yet decided).

Nearly a fifth (18%) said the main reason was because they couldn’t afford to live away from home, while 46% said they wanted to be near their families.

Gill Hines, co-author of Later! A Guide to Parenting a Young Adult (Piatkus), says living at home while doing further education is an increasing trend.

“There’s many, many more kids living at home when they go to university – universities are reporting a lot more students are local people. But there can be problems, particularly with the social side of things,” she says.

To help life with an adult student living at home remain as harmonious as possible, Hines says it’s vital for students and parents to discuss exactly what the house rules are well before term starts.

“Sit down with them and talk about how things are going to be once they start uni,” she advises. “You need to talk to them about everything their new life may entail, including overnight guests, finances, and them behaving like adults so you can treat them like adults.”

Here, Hines outlines the issues that need to be addressed in families where teenage students choose to live at home…

1. Set  rules for helping in the houseParents need to talk to their teenager about how they’re going to contribute to the running of the home, stresses Hines.

“They need to be doing much, much more than they probably have been doing. If they want the rights of being a young adult, they have to do the work of a young adult. Rights and privileges are great, but there are responsibilities too.”

It’s important to be clear about what’s expected of them, which should include a high level of self-care (you probably don’t want your house to smell like student digs). They may be expected to buy and make their own food, and if so, clear up after themselves, do their own laundry – or take a turn in doing the household laundry – take their turn to clean the bathroom, put the bins out, etc.

“You could either have set chores, or say that every fourth week or whatever they do a particular chore, whatever seems fair. It all needs to be discussed with them,” she says, although “they won’t like it”.

Adding: “We want them to have a nice life at university, but they do need to knuckle down. Hopefully they’ll be moving out [in the future], and they need to be able to look after themselves.”2. Discuss overnight guests

Parents may already have had ‘the talk’ about girlfriends or boyfriends staying overnight and what’s acceptable, but if not, now is the time to do it, says Hines.

“They’re more likely to have a partner or be in a sexual relationship at this age, and may be playing around because they’re at that stage of life. Parents need to have a chat with their child about it, and also with each other about how comfortable they are with overnight guests, and some rules need to be outlined.”

She suggests that, if possible, it may help to move their bedroom closer to an outside door, so they can come and go with more freedom.

“I know it’s not possible for everybody,” she notes, “but if you can change an upstairs room to one downstairs for them, it might help them to not have to trail right through the house with their guests, and they’ll have a sense of being more independent.”

3. Don’t treat them like a child

Hines says it can be tempting for parents whose young people live at home to treat them like children, but treat them as adults and they’re more likely to behave like one.

“They’re that bit older, and they no longer get the right to be a child who’s looked after 24/7,” she stresses.  Getting themselves up, getting themselves to uni, and getting their work done on time is not the parents’ responsibility anymore.

“You need to be clear about that,” she stresses. “The whole point of university is for them to grow up. It’s all down to them now – you’re no longer responsible for their day-to-day life – they are.”

4.  Explain what you’ll do if they break your rules

Hines points out that although parents of adult children don’t have many sanctions if their house rules aren’t followed (they’re too old to be grounded) be aware of what you pay for.

“If you pay for their phone and their travel and food or anything else, they need to accept that not every parent is doing that for their child at the age of 18,” she says. “It’s not a right, it’s a privilege, and some of it can be taken away.”

5. Encourage them to get a job

Hines points out that many students living away from home while at university have to get a part-time job to make ends meet, and says: “I would encourage them to get an income – as well as needing the money, it’s good experience.”

6. Discuss finances

Although once teens are earning, some parents may expect a contribution to room and board, Hines says if they’re students with a part-time job it might not be a feasible request.

“I don’t think they should be contributing to the financial running of the home –  at that age, I think it’s unrealistic to expect them to – but I think they should be contributing in other ways, like helping around the house.”

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