Dear Maria,

In a couple of months my beloved youngest daughter will be graduating from college. Her major was fine arts so it may take her some time to get established and earn an income that will allow her to support herself.  She will most likely be moving back home with her father and I, at least for a while. As that day gets closer I find that I am feeling uneasy about integrating her back into the household.  The idea of nagging my now adult daughter to do the dishes and pick up after herself is not pleasant but I am afraid that we will quickly fall back into our old roles as parent and child. I don’t want to be a nag or a martyr.  What can I do to keep this homecoming a happy one?

Signed,

Mom, not a Maid

Dear Mom,

Ah, the joys of a clean, empty nest! It’s hard to see the offspring fly away, but the calm that follows is delightful. How wise you are to avoid slipping back into old family patterns when she comes home to roost. Congratulations on raising a bright and creative daughter, who has chosen a challenging and rewarding career. So treat her as such. After the homecoming festivities, have a conversation about your expectations for her stay. She is an adult, and will have to negotiate living with others throughout her life—roommates, spouses, travel companions—and will be expected to hold up her end of the deal. Be clear with her about the deal now. Your conversation will model a good way to approach these situations. Start by telling her you’re proud of her, and that you expect her to behave as the accomplished person she is. Holding the highest good for others generally brings out the best in them, and is far more effective than nagging. Let your actions and words communicate how you see her: as an accomplished, capable adult. And, resist the temptation to pick up after her. (As a mother, I tend to do too much for my kids—I think I’m loving them by relieving them of chores. But, as a wise parent once told me: We do our children no favors when we do for them what they can do for themselves.) If her mess gets in your way, call her on it. Refer back to what she agreed to during your talk. Remember: we want our chickadees out of the nest, and a too-comfortable one is hard to leave!