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Holiday Homecomings – Preparing for Your College Child’s Return

house-19002_640-1I have heard the venting of frustration from college students and parents after Thanksgiving and Winter breaks have concluded.

It is a familiar story:

College student lives away from home and gets a taste of independence. They can stay up as late as they want, come and go as they please, eat whatever, where ever, and not have to worry about keeping their room clean or following the rules of their parents. College student excited for break returns home with the presumption that their parents will treat them differently because they are now an adult who has been living on their own and who makes up their rules. A college student comes home and finds their parents are treating them the same as when they were in high school.  They have a curfew; their parents are nagging them about helping out around the house and forcing them to visit with family when they would prefer to be spending time with their friends who were also away at school. Conflict arises and what was supposed to be a nice, relaxing break has now made the college student longing to be back at school.

Parents move their college student in at school. After a tearful good-bye, they hope and pray that their child makes the right decisions and all the good habits you have instilled in them will carry on at school. Parent’s miss college student and gets excited about Thanksgiving and Winter Breaks because they will get to spend time with their child who has been away at school. College student returns and they are different from the child they moved in at school. They suddenly think they can do whatever they want; come and go as they please, sleep into the late afternoon, not help around the house, and spend all their time with friends. Conflict arises and what was supposed to be a nice break filled with quality bonding time with college student has now made the parent dreading the summer break.

Can you see where the disparity in what the college student and parents think Thanksgiving and Winter Break will be like and how it can cause problems? How can we be pro-active so the holidays can be a joyous time for all?

First, acknowledge the possibility of change. Are you a college student coming home this holiday? Recognize that you are still your parent’s child despite your new-found independence. Be aware that they have missed you and that they may need some time to adjust to the changes you have made as a young adult. If you are a parent, you need to acknowledge that your college student may have changed since you dropped them off. They are still your child, but they are also becoming an independent adult.

Second, communicate and prepare. Before your college student comes home, it’s important to have a conversation about expectations. Yours and theirs. Will there be a curfew? How much time will be spent with family? How much time will be devoted to friends? What chores will they be responsible for while home? It is important that this is a discussion, and not the parents telling the college student what is going to happen. Parent’s remember your college student is not in high school anymore and certain rules may need further negotiation with an open-minded discussion. College students keep in mind; you are still under your parent’s roof which means to respect their way of life and their house rules.

Lastly, be patient. It may be difficult once your child returns home for them to recall the expectations discussed in earlier conversations. It is important to be patient through these adjustment periods. What may not be working this time around can be noted and discussed for the next holiday break.

The goal is that everyone has an enjoyable Thanksgiving and Winter break that remains conflict free or at least managed well. The first step is to be proactive before things get out of control and misunderstandings lead to long-term hurt feelings.

 

Have a good weekend,

Abigail R. C. McManus M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management

Apprentice.

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