Home for the Holidays

November 22, 2021

Home for the Holidays 

What to expect when you’re expecting a visit from your college student 

Elisabeth Reickert, Director of Counseling 

Extended holiday visits can stir up a lot of feelings for both parents and college students. Your emerging adults are becoming increasingly independent, leading to a natural shift in their relationship with family members. While this is healthy and expected, it’s not always easy to find the balance between too much, and not enough, parent involvement. The tips below will help you find the sweet-spot.

  • Be prepared to give them space

They’ve had months of limited privacy, late nights, and less-than-stellar eating habits. Expect your student to make up for it by doing some well-earned hibernating. Be as patient as you can as they catch up on sleep, food, and the comforts of home. They’ll likely emerge a bit less cranky, and ready to engage in family life.

  • Express interest, but don’t be intrusive

Naturally, you want to know everything about their lives away at college. Bombarding them with questions right away is the fastest way to chase them back into their rooms, however! Let your student know that you’re looking forward to hearing whatever they’d like to share, when they’re ready. Don’t push too hard and they’ll be more likely to open up. 

  • Support and encourage COVID safety

Students have been adhering to strict safety protocols on campus, and their efforts are paying off! Put them at ease by maintaining CDC guidelines and by being respectful of their comfort level in various settings.

  • Provide a listening ear

Your student will likely have all sorts of frustrations to share. Classes, roommates, and “adulting” in general are sources of stress and conflict. But bite your tongue, and withstand the temptation to jump into problem-solving mode unless they ask you to. Let them know that you’re there to help, but allow them to vent and then find their own solution.

  • Don’t over-emphasize “what’s next”

College students are often anxious and unsure of what the future holds. It’s natural for parents and family members to take an interest in their student’s plans for the future, but tread lightly. Minimize the pressure by focusing on what they’re working on now, what they’re excited about and proud of, and what you can do to encourage all aspects of their growth.

  • Enjoy the quality time – however fleeting

As much as your student misses you, they’re also eager to catch up with friends and to practice their newfound independence- out of the house. Adjust your expectations to prepare for quality over quantity, and slow down enough to savor the moments of togetherness when they arise. 

  • Focus on growth, not grades

Adjusting to the rigor of college can be a doozy, even for the most responsible of students. Don’t panic if their grades take some time to stabilize as they get into the groove. Express pride in their efforts, their new independence skills and their maturity. Your gentle encouragement will go a long way.

  • Let go 

Mistakes will happen! In fact, they’re a necessary part of growing up. As long as they aren’t in danger, take a deep breath (or several), and allow them to find their own way to a solution, whether or not it includes you as a resource. If they ask for your advice, make sure you’re talking to them and not at them – with patience and empathy.

Navigating the joys and challenges of parenting your college student takes time, trial, and error. But the rewards of following their lead as they grow into adulthood are many! Trust them, breathe, communicate, and repeat.

Happy Holidays!