How to Make the Most of Your College Student's Winter Break at Home

by ParentCo. January 07, 2017

father and son watching tv and eating popcorn on sofa at home

Parents get excited when their college kids come home for holidays and schools breaks. It’s a great opportunity to celebrate and be together. Here are some tips on what to do and what not to do to make the most of visits home.

Do family time

Plan one or two mandatory family activities. Let them know in advance what day or times that you’re planning them and that attendance is non-negotiable. Based on your family’s likes and schedule, plan something special, like dinner at a favorite restaurant or show tickets or a family game night.

Don’t overwhelm them with plans

Understand that, while you’ve missed them, they have missed everything about home. They miss their friends, their pets, even just sleeping in their own beds. It’s not that they don’t want to be with you, it’s that they have limited time at home and many people they want to see. Try not to be smothering or overwhelm them. Making family plans for every minute will just lead to stress and disappointment.

Do allow for down time

After months of sharing a room with roommate(s), they might just want to spend some time alone. Don’t worry if they aren’t overly social or feel like spending some time just watching TV or catching up on sleep. Time at home is a good way to re-charge and get a rest from college late nights.

Don’t get insulted

Many college students walk in the house, drop their bags (filled with dirty laundry), and immediately head out the door. Thanksgiving is a prime opportunity to re-connect with friends from high school. If you feel like your kids haven’t spent any time at home, suggest they invite friends over instead of going out.

Do set some rules in advance

They’ve been living on their own for a while now. They aren’t used to asking to borrow the car or having a curfew. Communicate your expectations to your young adult. You may need to loosen the rules you enforced when your child was in high school, but that doesn’t mean you can’t set some boundaries regarding underage drinking, car use, etc.

Don’t stress the mess

Having your college kid home means more stuff. More laundry, more shoes at the door, and messy rooms. Remember this mess is temporary. Try not to battle about messy rooms and just close the door. If it truly gets out of hand, let them know in a calm manner.

Do stock the fridge

Nothing says welcome home like a fridge stocked with your child’s favorite foods. Many college dining halls to not have the most appetizing choices. Your kids may have been surviving on Ramen, peanut butter, and take out pizza, so make sure you have plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables on hand, as well as some homemade treats. Let them pick the dinner menu for their time home.

Don’t ask too many questions

Of course you’re curious about their life at college, but don’t bombard them with questions the minute they walk in the door. While it’s natural to want to hear lots of details about your child’s new life, it’s more important not to make them feel interrogated or judged. Let your young adult take the lead in conversations. You may want to hear about their classes and grades, but they may be more interested in discussing fraternity life or roommate issues. Don’t press. They are adults and may want some privacy.

Do savor this time

From sibling banter to hearing their footsteps come down the stairs for breakfast (or lunch), embrace the sounds and laughter of having your child home again. Make time for simple activities you enjoy doing together, like going to the movies or the mall or just hanging out on the couch watching reality television. Take cues for your young adult. If it seems like they feel like talking, take a break from whatever else you are doing and really listen.

Don’t forget, they will be back again

It can be hard to say goodbye, but try not to focus on the fact that they’ll be leaving soon. Remember that your kids will be back again for other holidays, and summer break. It’s not the same as when they lived at home full time, but this next phase of parenting can be wonderful, too.



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