Home for the Holidays: Surviving your College Student’s Stay

Holiday breaks are usually the first extended periods of time that families spend together since saying goodbye at the dorm in the early fall. College students are accustomed to new freedoms and new adult responsibilities, and while coming home can be a relief, it also can lead to new power struggles between parents and their kids. This article addresses common stressful areas and ways to avoid potential conflict – so that the entire family can enjoy time together.

Holiday stress can be brought on by a variety of things. For one, the visions of what will take place over the holiday break can vary greatly between parents and students. Parents often assume their student will spend significant amounts of time with the family, while the student may have plans to spend most of their time visiting friends.

Parents and their student need to communicate with each other about changing expectations and responsibilities. Try to address the expectations about the visit home into a conversation – not a power struggle.

Also, think about the needs of your student as they seek a break from a stressful semester of academic work. Ask your student about their plans before they arrive at home. If you student will be splitting time between various family members, establish plans ahead of time and inform everyone of when they will be spending time at the various family locations.

On the other hand, realize how much freedom your college student has away from home, and trust in his or her ability to behave like an adult. Here are some things you might want to discuss:

Curfew. Will your college student be expected home at the same time that they were during high school? You may want to establish a new time and stick to it, or perhaps you may decide that curfews are not necessary.

Punishment. If a college student disobeys a parent’s wishes, will he or she be punished? How? Will a student be punished for poor grades?

Chores. How much work is expected around the house? You may want to establish a list of household responsibilities that will be expected during visits home.

Overnight guests. Can your kid bring a friend, roommate, or even their girlfriend or boyfriend home for the weekend? Discuss expectations to avoid an argument with your college student.

Changing views. College students may be exposed to ideas and beliefs that are quite different from what they learned at home. Hopefully this will result in some thoughtful conversations instead of conflicts. Remember parents, this is an important part of becoming an adult.

Remember, however your student decides to spend their holiday break, try to help make sure they take time for themselves, indulge in some rest and relaxation, have fun, and stay safe.