Brace yourself, winter break is right around the corner.
It is long
Your teen has been away for months, with maybe a short break and a couple of days home at Thanksgiving. The little time you have spent with your daughter seemed way too short and you are looking forward to having her home for almost a month. It sounds idyllic. Until that time comes.
Winter break can be like summer vacation with small kids. Remember how much you longed for the school year to be over, to plan fun activities, spend quality family time? Remember how long that feeling lasted?
How to prepare for your college student’s winter break
Whether you realize it or not, your life and routine have changed with a child away. Their routine has changed too. It is likely that these routines will clash. Siblings who pined over the one away quickly learn that, once again, your time and attention have to be shared. The college kid expects undivided attention because, after all, he has been away for months. Then you realize: you sent a child away to college; an adult who is used to his own rules has come home.
Your household will be upset
Having a teen come home for break is a little like having a house guest, only no one is on their best behavior. Even though your child spent most of their life living with you, things are now different. Yes, life changed dramatically for the college student, but they will likely expect that everything at home has stayed the same. In reality, with one less person in the house, patterns have changed.
In some cases, there is new furniture or things may have been rearranged. Even if none of these are true, your child may have forgotten where things are at home. The appliances are likely not the same as the ones at school, so there is a relearning process. It is also unlikely that your kitchen runs like the one in the dining hall (open long hours, choice of entrees.) Expectations are generally not verbalized and chaos may reign. Eventually, everyone will readjust to a new routine (maybe by the end of the break.)
2. College kids are marathon sleepers
Even if your child did not sleep in on weekends while in high school, it is likely that they will now. College works on a different timetable. Yes, classes start early, but social events start late. (You may remember this if you search far enough back into the recesses of your memory.) Depending on the individual, that means needed sleep is gotten either in the form of daytime naps or marathon sleeping on weekends and breaks. With the pressures of finals and all-night paper-writing sessions, there may be some catching up to do. Fighting this is often futile.
3. You won’t see much of your teen
You envision sitting around the table talking about work, classes, current events; leisurely trips to the store; going to lunch or coffee; spending time as a family. Your child wants to see you too, but they also want to see friends from high school.
Unfortunately, their friends’ schedules will trump yours. Since their breaks will vary, they will try to arrange to see everyone, usually over multiple days (it gets complicated when everyone else has their own list of people to see.) You may have been through this before (does it sound like the weeks leading up to move-in day at college?)
4. At some point, you will ask yourself who this person is
The child you dropped off on campus is not the same one you get back. They have learned new things, had new experiences, and have added to the pool of people who will influence who they will ultimately become. You may or may not agree with political views and career choices.
You will be surprised at how much your child has grown. The changes may be subtle, but something is definitely different. This person is no longer a little version of you (or your spouse) but has very definite opinions and possibly more confidence. You may be annoyed or in awe of the person in front of you.
5. It is over much too quickly
Although at some point, you may have been overwhelmed by the intensity of your visit (by now you probably realize that it is what it is; your child is on the path out of the house), the time will go quickly. You will once again be watching them packing for the journey back to campus (or “home,” as your child may put it) and will realize how precious time is and how quickly it passes. If you are the sentimental type, you may be replaying scenes from years past, wondering how you got here, and wishing you could slow down time.
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