Home for the Holidays

Christmas is coming! The long fall semester is almost over and your student will soon be home again.  As you look forward with anticipation to having several weeks of   family time together, it’s also important to remember that you have spent most of the last three and a half months living apart. It’s normal to experience a few bumps as you all readjust to living together again.  Here are a few tips to help smooth the way:

  • Engle parents holiday image1Exchange holiday “wish lists” before they come home.  Your idea of the perfect holiday break with your student might be spending “together time,” having long talks about college life, and going on holiday visits to relatives who haven’t seen your student since the summer. You might also be thinking that this is a great time to schedule those practical things your student needs, like dentist and eye doctor appointments, getting their car serviced, etc.  However, your student’s picture of the ideal holiday break might not look like that at all! Certainly they want to spend time with you, but probably high on their list of holiday break “musts” are  mornings spent sleeping until noon,  days spent lounging around enjoying their freedom from exams and due dates,  followed by plenty of late nights out of the house having fun with their friends.  Because expectations may differ, having an enjoyable break with your student will probably involve some give and take on both sides.  The best time to talk about this is before they come home.  Let them know what your wishes and expectations are, and ask them to tell you theirs.   If some changes in expectations need to be negotiated, it is helpful to have these conversations before they come home.
  • Give your student some time to catch up on sleep and “decompress” when they first come home. The time between the end of final exams and Christmas day is short , and your student may not be ready to jump right into the flurry of holiday activities when they first come home. For most students, the last few weeks of a semester are usually a blur of too much stress and not enough sleep. The holiday break will be happier for all of you if it begins with letting your student have some extra time to rest and recuperate.
  • Try to give your student adequate  notice of any appointments or family activities they must attend while they are home.  They’ve been managing their own calendar for the last semester and are out of the habit of checking with you before they make plans. There won’t be much holiday cheer in the house when you discover your student has already made plans for a big holiday reunion party with their friends on the same night you’ve invited all of the relatives for Grandma’s surprise birthday dinner.
  • Enjoy having your “child” back home again, but let them know you also understand they are now an adult.  Your student has spent the last three and a half months setting their own curfew, making most of their own decisions, and generally managing their own life.  This now feels normal to them, but it might not feel normal to you!  It’s easy for parents to slip back into familiar habits and expectations when their student comes home for the holidays.  But it’s important to recognize and support your student’s developing independence. The last semester has given them an opportunity to work on the skills they need to take charge of their lives as independent young adults. This holiday break also provides you with an opportunity; the opportunity to demonstrate through your actions that you understand and support their developing independence. A parental rule that was understandable when they were  in high school, such as setting a curfew time, is no longer a very good fit for a young adult who has been making that decision on their own since being away at college.

Engle parents holiday image2

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6