Home for the Holidays
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:
- Do no underestimate the importance of traditions to your student. This may not be the year to “try something totally new.”
- Listen to your student. They have a great deal to reflect on from their semester; they may be testing their value, beliefs and limits. Try not to react to experiences you may hear about. Be a good sounding board.
- Provide your student with a schedule of events (s)he may be expected to attend and participate in. Given that other plans may be in the works, this is a way to communicate without nagging or guilt trips.
- Alert your student to younger siblings wanting some special time with their older brother or sister who is coming home. Younger family members may have felt left behind when the semester began and are looking forward to reconnecting.
- Let them sleep. This may feel like a waste of precious time, but they honestly need it. Sleep is often the first thing that is compromised when time gets tight for college students, for better or for worse. To be in their own bed, in their own space, in the security of your home, may be one of the things they look forward to most, besides some home cooking.
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:
- Respect. Respect needs to come from both parties to achieve harmony.
- Accept. Parents must accept the fact that returning students probably stay up later than when they left for college and that they may be on the phone or online to stay in touch with people who have become important in their lives.
- Minimize the nagging. Limit yourself in the order department, or calmly say to yourself, “I will only ask him to do things three time today.”
- Compromise. That may mean pushing the curfew to late than you’d want, but the nature of compromise means they’ll have to give up a little on their end as well.
- Expect. Expect something out of your child, so a) they’re not just freeloading and b) they know that something is still expected out of them as a member of the family. Have them assume old chore duties and even a few new ones.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) on Nov 15, 2012 at 4:51 PM