With the craziness and stress of finals behind them, students look forward to the winter break for some relaxation and fun. However, a college student coming home to the parent’s house for the holidays can present some stressors of it’s own for both students and parents. Below are some tips for both parties to follow that might relieve some stress and help the holidays go a little smoother.
Communicate about changes before the student comes home!
Students have likely experienced a lot of changes since they have been away from home. They made new friends from diverse backgrounds, were exposed to new ideas in their classes, maybe changed their appearance, maybe started new romantic relationships, and maybe started drinking. Students may even feel defensive of their new lifestyles partially because they don’t want family to assume they are the same as they were in high school. Also, coming home may represent a return to “old patterns” for many students, which may feel uncomfortable for the student.
Likewise, there may have been some big changes at home since a student left. Maybe there was a divorce, the loss of a family pet, or some renovations to the house. Whatever the changes are, it is important that both sides communicate the changes that have occurred before the student comes home. This way both parents and students feel that they have an understanding of what the other has been going through, and has an idea of what to expect.
Students, show gratitude. Parents, show pride.
Students: as excited as you are about all the new ideas and changes you have gone through, try not to forget that your parents are supporting all of it. Your parents are likely footing the bill for your education or living expenses. Expressing your gratitude aloud, or coming home with a token of your appreciation will prove to your parents that you are on a path of maturity, and that their investment in you is paying off!
Parents: your college student may be eager to show off their new knowledge and identity. Sometimes it may feel like just that- showing off. As irritating as it may sometimes seem, think back to way they were little and yelling, “Look at me! Look at me!” as they did something new. Even though your child is now a young adult, and even though they now may be seemingly self-righteous, still saying something like, “I’m so proud of how hard you’re working at school and the adult you’re becoming” will go a long way.
“My house, my rules.”
College students who have been away from home for a long stretch of time have gotten pretty accustomed to making their own rules for themselves. It can be a huge adjustment to go “backwards” to have rules imposed by parents. For parents, it’s important to understand how uncomfortable this feels for students to hand over their independence and freedom. With that in mind, it is still your house. Students should keep in mind that families at home have a whole routine and system that has been going on while they were away, and maybe coming home at 2 am could be throwing that off. Respect on both sides is key. Also key is discussing this topic before the student comes home. This way, rules are agreed upon and no one feels blind sighted.