5 Ways Your College Freshman Will be Different When They Come Home

If you sent a baby off to college a couple months ago, there’s a good chance right about now that you’re over the moon with the fact that Thanksgiving is right around the corner. Your baby will likely be heading home for the holidays. You’re probably eager to do things like make all their favorite foods, spend hours on the couch talking about college life and new experiences/friendships he’s made, and maybe catch a movie or two together. 

It’s gonna be so great! 

Until it isn’t, because that baby you got all set up in the dorm? Well, they aren’t that baby anymore. 

What I mean by this is, even in just a short time not living under your roof, the average 18-year-old freshman away at college will return home for that first school break and not be the kid they were when they left. Now stay with me here moms and dads, because this isn’t the tragedy you may think it is. This is actually a GOOD thing.

 man in airport
The first year student you left at college will be very different when they return home for the holidays. (Twenty20 @domalantaadonijah)

5 changes to expect when your teen comes home

1. They act like they don’t want to be home

If when they come home (and some don’t even want to come home), they seem to not be super into wanting to spend quality time with the family, that’s totally normal. Remember how during the teen years you learned to not take everything so personally? Time to do that again.

Here’s the deal, it’s not YOU, it’s THEM. They’ve been living their best life away from home, and upon returning, everything feels awkward because it IS awkward, and that’s OK! Just be present in the background, for now. 

2. Sleep, sleep, sleep, and more sleep

I’ve never in my life seen a child more tired than when they first come home from college. It’s like they just escaped from triathlon training camp and finally can have a lie in.

Don’t be concerned if during the 5-ish days they’re home, they only appear to be alert when the pumpkin pie is served. Again, totally normal. Let them enjoy all the zzzzz’s they want, all comfy in their own bed, and without roommate disruptions. Or hangovers. 

3. Speaking of hangovers…and curfews…

Look, I’m not naive, and I had no intention of thinking my college freshman hasn’t partaken in some good ‘ol fashioned keg beer slugging at some point their first semester away. But that behavior ends at my door.

They may come home feeling bold and brash enough to say, “Mom, I drink at college, why can’t I drink here?” or something similar, but I have a strict, “My house, my rules” standard that they’ll be forced to comply with. Trust me, you’re going to hear, “But, but, but, I stay out all night at college!” That’s great, but you’re not at college right now.

End of discussion. 

4. What happened to my shy, quiet kid?

There’s an odd phenomena I’ve seen happen not only with my kids, but also friend’s kids, and it goes something like this…the kids who don’t really enjoy (or get the most out of) their high school experience, tend to really find their groove at college.

Did you leave a hesitant wallflower at college? Well, John Belushi may show up for the holidays. Just roll with it. If they’re on their phone What’sApp-ing their 25 new BFFs all night long, be thankful. The alternative is they come home miserable and don’t want to go back. 

5. Freshman change, and so do their majors, political leanings, food preferences….

These are the four years of your kid’s life where they can metaphorically “try on” different personality characteristics, and are free to change their minds about anything and everything and trust me, they do. Your kid who left and was pre-med? He may come home wanting to be an English major.

Have a new vegan in the house? Not surprised. Wait, is that a beard they’re sporting? It’s fine. Everything is fine. And just like they’re not the same kid who left you, they will most definitely NOT be the same kid next year or the year after that. 

Don’t panic, these four years are the most fun to watch from the sidelines, and you’re not gonna believe how in four years your baby will become a legit grownup. Now relax and go make them peel some sweet potatoes for you!

More Great Reading:

Home for the Holidays? Here are the 8 Things to Expect From College Kids

About Melissa Fenton

Melissa Fenton is a freelance writer and adjunct librarian at Pasco-Hernando State College. Find her writing all over the internet, but her work mostly on the dinner table. Find her on Facebook 
and on twitter at @melissarunsaway

Read more posts by Melissa

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