Monday, December 13, 2010


This time of year, many families find themselves eagerly anticipating having their college freshman return home for the holidays. Having everyone under one roof again is exciting; however, like many things associated with this festive season, their homecoming often results in a whole new set of challenges. Teens that have become used to being independent and making their own decisions while at college may chafe at what they view as unreasonable parental rules and restrictions and scoff at family traditions that their parents and younger siblings still cherish. Here are some tips that can help make your reunion more enjoyable and less stressful:

Expect change
Be forewarned, having your son or daughter at home won’t automatically return your family to its “pre-college” dynamic. Family members have all had several months to realign themselves and take on new roles. Your college student is now a young adult and should be treated as such instead of like a wayward teen or a guest in your house. Failing to recognize and acknowledge that key fact is bound to result in a very unpleasant winter break for all of you.

Be consistent with rules
It’s helpful if parents can sit down together before their freshman arrives and develop a list of rules that will be nonnegotiable while your teen is home. Making your expectations clear right from the start of the December break will alleviate any confusion or uncertainty about what’s acceptable behavior and what isn’t. You can also use this time to talk about how you’ll handle things like borrowing the car, requests for money, and unexpected outings or impulsive road trips with friends you’ve never met.

Don’t compromise family values for the sake of peace
College students often find it surprisingly easy to forget basic family courtesies like picking up after themselves, using appropriate language and good manners, and helping out with daily chores like emptying the dishwasher, taking out the garbage, and caring for family pets.

Of course the returning college student shouldn’t be required to do extra work to make up for all the chores they’ve missed while they’ve been away (as my son’s brothers suggested!) but they should be expected to do their fair share.

Offer “quality” time together

Most returning teenagers will be excited to reconnect with old high school friends, teachers, or neighbors but that doesn’t mean that they won’t welcome some uninterrupted quality time with you.

Phone calls, emails, or texts can’t take the place of good, old-fashioned “face time”. Put the holiday chaos on hold for a few hours, sit back, and really listen to what your son or daughter is saying; you’ll learn a lot!

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