Tips for Parents

The Other Side of Home – A Student’s Perspective

Secretly I am hoping my mom doesn’t read this article. But here’s the truth: I always am so nervous coming home for the holidays.

Here’s what you need to know about me to understand why that’s a big statement. I love the holidays. My friends need to remind me that November 1st is too early to be listening to Jingle Bells. And I completely believe that there is nothing more magical than my parent’s house during the holidays. My mom is a rock-star when it comes to decorating and creating a wonderland. But still, every time I come home for Thanksgiving or Christmas break, I always get a knot in my stomach as I’m packing my bags.

It is an indescribable emotion as you return to your parents’ house after being away in college. You feel as though you should be back at home – the home you know and love. The home you dream of when you are homesick and that hold all your memories from high school. And of course you are in that home. But something has changed.

During the Thanksgiving break of my freshmen year, I was overwhelmed by this emotion. I was initially so excited to sleep in my own room, to snuggle with my dogs, and to see my parents. But I couldn’t get past the emotion that something had changed. That’s when I realized I had changed.

Freshmen year holds so many life changing experiences. It seems as if college students are challenged every day. From listening to a professor who contradicts something we’ve been taught or believe, avoiding peer-pressure from friends, or struggling to balance social and academic life, students are constantly rediscovering themselves. And suddenly, we’ve changed. The first semester is especially challenging and holds even more changes. For myself, it wasn’t until I returned home for that first break that I had discovered just how much I had changed.

Now that I’m a few years into the cycle of coming home for the holidays, I am doing a little better. I understand the balance now. On the drive home I always remind myself that it won’t be the same because I have changed. But I still snuggle with my dog. I still love how magical my mom makes our house. I still love waking up and having a cup of coffee with my parents. I love being home.

College is a time when students are daily growing and changing. Coming home to our high school rooms and seeing our old posters is emotional. Coming home is a grounding experience in a world of continual change for college students. It is a confusing and emotional process returning home and realizing how much you’ve already changed.

So be patient with your returning son or daughter. Simply listen to the stories, let them have some quiet time to reabsorb home. Be there for them. Above all, remind them that no matter what changes they experience and feel, there is always a loving home waiting for them.

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