Curfew on break — Is my mom joking?!


I just went home for my first Thanksgiving break, and my mother had the nerve to try to give me a curfew! I told her that I am safe, don't drink, and have tame friends, but that we like to hang out until late because we haven't seen each other for so long. Well, on my last night home, I fell asleep hanging out at my boyfriend's house. I woke up at 3:30 A.M. and even though I wanted to stay, I went home because of my mother. She was awake when I arrived, and furious! Those hours with my boyfriend and friends are precious, and I hate having to feel guilt, worry, or dread about going home when all my other friends are relaxed and having fun. What can I do? Am I being unreasonable?

— Time warped by mom

Dear Time warped by mom,

Going home from college for the first time can definitely feel like a time warp that sends you back to high school — for you and your parents. College brings newfound independence, and you may expect those same freedoms at home. However, it may take a while for your mother to see her child as an adult. In the meantime, you might try working with your mother to understand each other’s perspectives and come up with a compromise that works for you both.

Having a conversation with your mother about both of your concerns can help you move towards a solution. Preparing your talking points in advance, speaking calmly, and describing your views in detail can help set the tone for a respectful and productive exchange. One place to start may be explaining what you've noticed about her behavior and how it makes you feel. This is a great opportunity for you to reiterate how much you value the time you spend with your boyfriend and friends. Approaching the chat as a mature adult may help show your mother that you’re no longer a child. Additionally, being able to stay calm when you start to feel upset or anger can help keep the conversation on track. While it may be tempting to give in to these emotions, acting on them may only exacerbate the situation. Instead, you could try taking a moment to reflect, examining your assumptions about what was said and calmly addressing your concerns with your mother. This may not only help make the conversation more fulfilling but may also allow you and your mother gain a greater understanding of one another.

While expressing your own feelings is key, so is listening to your mother’s feelings and what she has to say. Most miscommunications occur when one person doesn’t take the time to really listen to what the other is saying. Even though her curfew feels unfair, it might be helpful to put yourself in her shoes. During your talk, you could take a moment to ask your mother why she is opposed to you staying out late and why she's imposing a curfew. She likely has many reasons for wanting you home earlier. For example, is she worried about you being on the road while tired? Or was she expecting you home at a certain time but then was worried because she never heard from you (due to falling asleep)? While you may have considered some of the reasons, she may have others that you haven't thought about yet. Asking her about her reasons will help you understand her point of view. 

Once you and your mother have had a chance to air your concerns, you can try working together to find a compromise that works for both of you. Maybe your friends could spend time at your house so your mother knows that you're all together and safe. Maybe your boyfriend could visit you at your mother's place or stay the night. Another possibility is that you could extend your curfew on the condition that you check in with her at specified times. These are only a few suggestions, as you and your mother can work together to come up with solutions that work best and address both of your concerns.  

While going to college is a big transition for you, it can also be tough for parents who are left with an empty (or emptier) nest. This conflict may be an opportunity to demonstrate your maturity by negotiating a fair compromise. Although it may not happen overnight, your mother may worry less about you staying out late as she witnesses your responsibility, maturity, and concern for her feelings.

Last updated Feb 26, 2021
Originally published Dec 16, 1994

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