I’ll be Home For Christmas…You Can Count on Me

Parent Tips for Managing the Holiday Break

As a parent you are likely looking forward to having your student home for a relaxing and joyous holiday break.  It may have been several months since you’ve seen your student.  It’s likely that you are anticipating how the time will be spent:  Nice family dinners, visiting with extended family, attending church services together, long talks about classes and college life, endless shopping and trimming the tree with your student. Our hope is that things go as planned, but as in life, you may hit a few bumps in the road along the way.

Your student has been out of the house now for approximately three months and has experienced new freedoms, responsibilities, and relationships.  These changes may make the return home an adjustment for all.   Your ideas of how the holiday should be spent might not match up with what your student is considering. Despite these differences, it is possible to have a more satisfying holiday if you take a few simple steps.

Suggstions for the Holidays:

Plan Ahead:  Talk to your student before they come home.  Find out about their plans and begin planting some seeds yourself.   When do they plan to leave campus?  How are they getting home?  Will they be bringing guests?  What plans has s/he made with friends and other family members already?  What key family events would you like them to participate in?  Will they need to schedule time to see their physician, dentist or orthodontist while in town?  Trying to get on the same page from the outset, can help to avoid unnecessary conflict and work on your part.

Adjust Your Expectations:  Hopefully, your student has just survived the rigors of finals and the multiple assignments that come due all at once.  They are likely tired, mentally drained and ready to relax.  They also have not seen high school friends in several months and may be eager to do so.  Therefore, it is probably not realistic to assume that they will be available and home for the entire break.  Consider scheduling family events later on in the break and anticipate ways to make the most of the limited time you may have. Stay connected to your student.  For example, consider planning fun outing or quiet dinner together with your student.  Although we advise to plan ahead, be conscious not to over plan.

Don’t Take it Personally:  Initially your student will be glad to see you and excited to be home, but after a few days s/he may become bored, irritable, or glued to their Blackberry.   Your student may spend a lot of time sleeping, staring at the television or away from the house.  This may be the first time they’ve gotten to use a car in a few months, so s/he may be using it A LOT!  Try not to take these behaviors as a rejection of you.  Anticipate also, that they may likely put off studying or other tasks that need to be done before they return to school.  As vacation draws to a close, they may become more anxious about these responsibilities and may feel the need to return to school earlier than anticipated.

Chores: Are you willing to do your student’s laundry while they are home?  Will they still be expected to take out the garbage?  Negotiating these activities when you are both relaxed will likely save you from conflict later.

Curfew:  Curfew is likely to be one of the biggest points of contention.  Try to stay flexible and remember that your student has been in charge of their own schedule for the past few months.  It is a reasonable expectation to be informed about your student’s whereabouts and to not be rudely awakened at 3:00 AM. Some parents bestow greater privileges as their student demonstrates greater responsibility, decision-making and judgment.  Others set a fixed curfew time and simply ask their student to call if they will be out longer than expected.  Another suggestion may be to require the car to be home at certain time, but letting the student remain out longer if desired.

Expect Changing Views:  College is a time of self-discovery.  You may be surprised by some of the ideas your student will bring to the table once at home.  This may be concerning and uncomfortable for you.  You may wonder where you went wrong.  Know that this too is part of a developmental process. In college, your student will be exposed to a diversity of cultures, thoughts, and ideas.  This is in part due to the complexity of the university environment and in part the result of the critical thinking skills taught there.  Emphasis is placed on questioning previously known facts and truths and identifying one’s prejudices rather than memorizing and accepting information at face value.  Be patient with your student as they work through this process.  Encourage them to ask questions and do their own research.   Trust that you have laid a strong foundation with your student.  It is helpful to keep avoid open mind an avoiding moralizing while guiding your student rather than pressuring them.  Reminding them of your expectations and helping them determine their own educational goals can also be  helpful.