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Coming Home From College For The Holidays: Tips For Families

You sent a high-school senior to college a few months ago and you’ll be getting a college freshman home for the holidays. Are you ready? Because after coming back home from college, things will have changed. Dr. Isaiah Pickens has written an open letter to the whole family to prepare them for it.

Dear Parents:

Now that the months of giddy anticipation about your teen’s return home for the holidays are coming to an end, are you ready to be disappointed? Don’t worry, disappointment is normal when you expect to have your little one home, all to yourself, for a few days and realize a young adult has returned who has already made plans with friends, doesn’t see the point of curfew, and expects the only demand on them to be, “What do you want for dinner?”

Here are a few tips to keep your disappointment in check.

1. Ease into it.

As excited as you are to learn every detail about your teen’s new life, the best way to find out is by pacing your conversations and interactions. Start out with just a few questions and even fewer planned activities.

2. Negotiate.

Whether you are aware of it or not, your teen is now a young adult and expects to be treated like one. Think about your expectations (chores, rules etc.) while he or she is home and discuss what is reasonable. Try to reach shared decisions.

3. Be patient.

You’re reconnecting. It may take time to get to know each other again. Be patient with yourself and your child.

4. Limit family time.

As great as it is to hang together again, everyone needs time to recharge and that usually happens away from others. Don’t over-schedule your holiday break or guilt-trip family members into doing every activity together. Be flexible with one another and give each other options for when to come together.

Dear College Student:

“I’m not 6 anymore!!” is the thought bubble that may pop into your mind a few hours after returning home for the holidays. You’ve been reveling in the freedom of unsupervised living while at college—and now you’re back home, where your parents may be treating you like the high school student you were when you left home a couple of months ago.

While there are many directions the next few days can take, it’s a safe bet you’ll want to avoid clashing with parents over chores and curfews.

Coming home for the holidays is about reconnecting with those you love most when campus closes down (or you want a break from all that adult living . . . free laundry anyone?). In fact, that’s the key to making the transition home. Think of it as a reconnection.

Check out these tips for making it as smooth as possible:

1. Adjust expectations.

Understanding that parents may treat you like the child they launched into the world not too long ago can make “being treated like a kid” a little less frustrating. Have a sense of humor.

2. Be proactive about sharing how you’ve grown.

Start conversations about things you’ve learned, offer to help around the house, and stay calm if they press your hot buttons. Show your parents the young adult you’ve become and, soon, they’ll begin to treat you that way.

3. Look for things to enjoy.

It’s only a few days or weeks; focus on things you’ve missed and do them!

Good luck! And happy holidays! 

Dr. Isaiah Pickens

Isaiah Pickens, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and founder of iOpening Enterprises, a creative writing company that creates books, films, and life skills curricula for teens and young adults.