The first-year college student you dropped off on campus in August or September, is likely to be different from the one who will be coming home for the winter holidays:
Looking for some words of wisdom? How about starting here:
Communicate before they get home.
- Do not assume that they are coming home without plans. While many come back exhausted, stressed or simply wanting to sleep, some will want to reconnect with old or even new friends. Some may have projects to complete or exams to prepare for. Unless it was discussed beforehand, do not assume that their time home will be spent at home, or with just you and other family members.
- Were there house rules before college? If so, you may need to revisit and/or revamp them. Curfew? What’s that? Can your student come and go as they please, or will you expect him or her to be in by a specific time? Remember, they have been away from you for a few months, developed a sense of independence, and have established their own schedules. Can friends (including the opposite sex) sleep over in your home? Is alcohol consumption allowed in the house? Be clear on your expectations, as your rules may now conflict with their new college socializing activities.
- Stock up on their favorite goodies and replenish any known supplies that they will need to take back to school. The less time spent shopping in crowded stores, the more time there will potentially be available for you and your student.
- Encourage conversation, but don’t be overly optimistic. You may be anxious to know every single detail about their college experience thus far, and at most, they may only want to share how much they hate the dining hall food, or how messy their roommate is. If there are specific things you want to learn about, i.e., grades, relationships, etc. be sure to have open-ended questions prepared in advance. If not, you may be the recipient of a ton of “yes” and “no’ responses from your darling.
- Do not neglect your own self-care. Often because of lack of communication and occasionally lack of genuine planning, holiday time can quickly swing from what is supposed to be fun, family time, to countdown to “is it over yet?” Before you know it your student is headed back to campus and you are left in need of a hot bath and a glass of something strong- and I don’t mean coffee!
The first-semester home visit is an anticipated one. Parents are excited to see their offspring, and students are eager to sleep in their old bed, play with the dog, and eat some “real” food.
However, in order to make the most of the time together and minimize any drama, parents are encouraged to embrace their new reality. You are likely getting a glimpse of the new, maturing adult that you have raised, and not the little girl or boy that you may be anxious to hold on to.
Patience, reasonable expectations, and flashbacks to what your demeanor was like at this age (remember?) will help to create happy, holiday, new memories.
What additional suggestions would you like to share with other parents of a college student?
I welcome your feedback, and I am sure another parent will, as well.