Home for the Holidays

Home for the Holidays




Holidays and vacations are a time for Pacific University families to reconnect with their students. These reunions are often filled with both wonderful times and with challenging, even disappointing experiences for both students and their families. Often, even the best parent-child relationships are tested in ways that may be unexpected. Of course every family represented here is different, so while we can’t give hard and fast guidelines, we are going to provide some information for consideration.


Stress can be brought on by a variety of things when students return home for holidays and vacations. Most likely, change may have occurred for each member of your family. Nothing stands still for long. The students who came to Pacific in August may not seem like the same people who will be coming to your homes for upcoming breaks. You may notice differences in appearance, behaviors, attitudes, and ideologies. In turn, students may find changes in family patterns to be stressful. Parents who ‘stayed together for the sake of the kids’ may have decided that it is time to separate or divorce. Single parents may have developed new friends or interests while their student has been away. Students coming from blended families often face the stress of dividing time equally between parents. And a classic scenario includes changes at home in the space formerly inhabited by a returning student.


Students’ visions of holiday breaks can be much different than that of parents. Parents often assume their sons or daughters will spend significant amounts of time with the family, while (s)he has plans to spend every night visiting old friends. One more common area of conflict may be parents’ reluctance to see the student as an adult, to adjust house rules to the new adult status felt by the student, and to the freedom the student has been enjoying since school began.


We all know that residential life on campus is not like residential life at home. While your days may have settled down somewhat since your student took off for fall semester, theirs have surely accelerated. From the challenges of academic discovery and experiential learning, to to sudden freedom and constant peer contact, the life of a college student is jam-packed and ever-changing. The awareness of this lifestyle gap may not hit parents and students at the same time, but it’s likely to come up at some point during their stay.


Making the most of this much-anticipated, and needed, break can be challenging for everyone involved. Consider the following ideas to cope during upcoming breaks:



Parents might also want to adjust expectations surrounding how much time they will actually get to spend with their budding adult. For many college students, home serves merely as a backdrop to the student’s personal agenda – which is bound to include the twin indulgences of late night reunions with high school friends and late afternoon breakfasts (after sleeping in all morning). Since students have been on their own since the end of August, most don’t expect any parental restrictions. To help avoid conflict and hurt feelings ask, “I’d love to have a couple of family dinners while you’re home, when would be good for you?” give them the choice rather than telling them what your schedule is, and do so in the beginning so you don’t hear back “but I already made plans…”


Susan Newman, author of Nobody’s Baby Now, a book for young adults focused on reinventing relationships with parents, recommends that parents think about the following:



Realize that the letting go process is still underway. The task of parents during the college years is to let go while staying connected – a fine but fundamental line to draw. Kids want – and need – parents to start acting and speaking to them as young adults, to really listen to them without judgment and criticism. In essence, whether your growing offspring admit it or not, they seek from you what they have always sought – acceptance for who they are and who they are becoming.

Posted by Angela Surratt (asurratt@pacificu.edu) on Nov 15, 2012 at 4:51 PM

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