Student Life

When Winter Break Ends in a Break-up

With the holiday season over and students heading back to college soon, the term “winter break” might garner a whole new meaning. According to an article in The Washington Post, college freshmen’s first trips home often result in the break-up of a relationship with a high school sweetheart.

College presents new opportunities, experiences, friendships and relationships, and for students with a significant other who doesn’t attend the same school, those changes can be too much to keep the couple together.

Even if your student doesn’t end a romantic relationship over winter break, she might experience a more subtle break-up. As she reconnects with her best friends from high school, she’ll find they have changed just as much as she has. She might feel distant from them, finding it hard to pick up where they left off. Here are a few tips to help your student deal with a break-up, no matter how big or small:

Stay active. Surround your student with family and friends who love her, reminding her that you’re there for her. Go shopping for school items, spend quality time together and get out of the house to keep the brooding over the ex to a minimum. While it’s natural to grieve the loss of a relationship, it can be debilitating if it goes on too long.

Help plan. Discuss goals, tasks, events and plans for the next semester with your student. Help her to feel hopeful and excited about going back to school. Ask her about the friends she’s made, the classes she’ll take next semester and what she’s looking forward to when she gets back to school.

Expect emotions. After a semester of significant new experiences and change, your student will have a lot to think about. Add to that strained or broken relationships with people who were closest to her, and winter break can be quite dramatic. Be patient if there are more fights or blow-ups with your student during this time.

Listen intentionally. Allow your student time to process her emotions. Whether that means listening to her talk about the break-up, hugging her while she cries, or bearing the brunt of her silent treatment, let her deal with this life change on her own terms.

Be encouraging. Difficult break-ups may lead to thoughts of revenge or the temptation to take a semester off or quit a job. Be the positive voice of reason for your student by acknowledging that it’s normal to feel these things, but acting on them will only hurt her in the long run. Suggest that she set up an appointment with a counselor through the university’s wellness center, if the break-up seems too overwhelming.

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