My mom often described Winter Break as the one where she couldn’t wait for my sister or me to come home from college, but by the end of the third or fourth week she was ready for us to return to whence we came. We did have a way of turning the household upside down just by our presence.
6 Things for Parents to Know About Winter Break
1. Your kid has changed
Your freshman has changed, even since Thanksgiving. My husband and I noticed the transformation with both of our kids. They gave off a new sense of confidence or maturity, which we attributed to the fact that they survived their first semester/quarter. Coming home after finals, that first session under their belt, college kids feel accomplished—and relaxed. A bit of attitude comes with the territory, too.
2. Holiday frenzy is not for everyone
Some teens are happy to get caught up in all the family traditions while others suddenly scoff at them. Discuss what yours is up for.
The underlying issue usually involves having enough time with friends rather than an outright rejection of you or the festivities. Alleviate some stress by highlighting the activities and events where you require your teen’s presence and the ones they can choose whether to attend.
For families who celebrate Hanukkah, kids sometimes come home in the middle of or after the holiday. Talk with your freshman about how they’d like to handle the holiday this year if their academic schedule doesn’t coincide.
3. Post holiday blahs
After New Year’s Day, everyone in your household will head back to work or school—except your college student. They’ll still be staying out late with their friends, sleeping until noon and coming and going on their own time (unless they have a job). Talk with your teen about how this will all work, especially if everyone will be sharing cars or your house has a few light sleepers.
4. When boredom sets in
As most of their friends return to college or the ones who commute start their second semester, your freshman might complain, “There’s nothing to do here.” They’ve had their fill of home cooked meals, sleeping in and a pile of clean laundry always at the ready. At college, there’s rarely time to get bored and always someone around to talk to or hang out with. Not much you can do but offer suggestions, but I can tell you now, the one about cleaning their room probably won’t go over well.
5. Some kids don’t want to go back
For any number of reasons, college wasn’t what they expected and they’re thinking of transferring for next fall. Make a point of discussing with your freshman what didn’t work out to determine how to find a better fit. Keep in mind that if next semester goes better, which it often does, your teen may decide to stay put.
6. Grades come in online
When we were in college, semester grades arrived in the mail via USPS. There was no hiding the results from our parents. Today, like everything else related to college, grades are sent electronically, within days after final exams, to your student’s account.
Ask your teen to pull up their grades online and go over them together. Reviewing the results could lead to a constructive discussion. Who knows, you might be pleasantly surprised by what you learn.
With some flexibility and a willingness to negotiate on both sides, winter break can turn into more of the fun time you hoped for.
Anne Vaccaro Brady is a published author, former teen magazine editor and founder of Parents’ Guide to the College Puzzle, a blog that helps families navigate the college admissions process and freshman year experience. As the mom of two college graduates, her goal is to alleviate much of the stress parents experience when their children apply to college. A professional writer and editor who worked in public relations at Purchase College, SUNY, she’s also an admissions coach, assisting high school seniors with their college applications and personal essays. She enjoys helping her clients shape their unique interests and talents into a compelling package to share with their prospective schools.