Students will soon be returning home for the holidays and will be ready for a break. They may want to do nothing but sleep, eat, and then sleep some more. At the same time, they may be missing college friends and used to living on their own schedule. Many students return home for winter break and have changed – they may not be the same student you dropped off in August! As a parent, how do we make the most out of the break and family time? How do we communicate our expectations and be flexible at the same time? Here are some things to consider:
1. Freshmen students may be ready to be home for an extended period and fold back into family life easily. They may be eager to share lots of details that they don’t always share in that quick phone call or text message. Upperclassmen may be asserting their independence even more than during past breaks and may have very different expectations about what they will do with their time andwhether house rules (or guidelines) apply to them. Upperclassmen may want to return to their apartments before classes resume, dashing any hopes for family gameand movie nights, winter walks, and family dinners.
2. Family life may seem out of balance. Sure, you’ve carried on as a family just fine without your student for the last few months (even if they haven’t noticed). When college students come home, your family routine may seem out of balance, especially if there are younger siblings. Set expectations early, but find ways to be flexible as well.
3. Find a balance between carving out space for family time and opportunities for your student to catch up with high school friends, sleep, and relax. Ask your student when it might be good to plan some family time and involve everyone in the planning.
4. You may hear your student say “just give me a break” while home for the break. College students need a break after exams and from the crazy pace of college. Don’t be surprised if your student sleeps a lot and doesn’t want to do much at all after first getting home. Give them some space and let them re–engage when ready.
5. Find some time to talk about the fall semester, your student’s plans for the winter break, and the spring semester. Here are some Conversation Starters:
- Let’s talk about Winter Break – what are your plans, what are your expectations?
How did the fall semester compare to the expectations you had?
What is one goal you have for spring semester?
What excites you about returning to campus? Who do you look forward to connecting with again?